What is German Pork Knuckle (Schweinshaxe)?
German pork knuckle a.k.a Schweinshaxe is a crispy skin roasted pork hock served with a rich, dark beer-flavored sauce. It is a veritable symbol of Bavarian cuisine and beer culture, which is commonly served in most beer halls and restaurants all over Bavaria and other parts of Germany.
In the olden days, homegrown pigs were slaughtered and every single part of the animal was processed for delicious dishes or other usages. The German pork knuckle with beer gravy has been a typical Bavarian dish since the 19th century and it has gained popularity and become the symbol of the local cuisine. It is also one of the important dishes to try out at Oktoberfest whereby nearly a lakh of roasted pork knuckles are consumed annually.
Why beer is important for the dish?
Beer is an important element or ingredient for making delicious German pork knuckles. The pork knuckle is traditionally served with a rich, dark, thickened gravy full of beer flavor and it is the highlight of the dish. Dark German beer is always the best choice for preparing pork knuckle due to its robust, full-bodied brew flavor. There are some slightly different versions of it whereby people choose to use light beer so that the mild flavor of the light beer does not overpower the pork.
What kind of beer to use for German Pork Knuckle?
Since a dark, rich, and full-bodied beer-flavored gravy is important to the dish, dark German beer is preferred for making German pork knuckle. Most recipes suggest that the first step is to simmer the pork knuckles in beer with other ingredients, and then the liquid is used to make gravy along with the drippings from the roast pork knuckles.
Dark beer German beer contributes a malty and sweet beer taste to the gravy at the same time makes it darker brown in color. It is recommended to choose dark German lager such as Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Bock, or Doppelbock for the German pork knuckle dish. Any other dark porter, ale, or stout can be also used as a substitute for simmering the pork knuckle and making the gravy too. It is important to use proper dark beer to make sure the final gravy is rich and dark.
However, some people prefer to use amber lagers such as Märzen or Vienna lager, or other lighter beer like Pilsner and Helles to prepare the pork knuckle dish. This prevents the dark beer or stout to be too heavy or strong (either sweet or bitter) as they can be overwhelming and cover the nicely roasted pork.
Choice of beer (short description)
Dunkel: Dunkel is a German term for “dark” and it is made with dark roasted malts. There is a variety of flavors including nuts, coffee, and chocolate in the market, and they are marked with thier lager crispness and delicate hoppiness. The alcohol content is around 4.5-6% by volume and tastes less bitter.
Schwarzbier: Schwarzbier or black beer is a German dark lager with a complex taste of roasted malt with bitter chocolate or coffee flavors. It has an alcohol content of about 5% by volume. It is like stout in which they are made from roasted malts, and this gives them a dark color.
Bock: Bock is originally a strong dark German lager that is sweet and has a relatively high alcohol content of 6.3-7.2% by volume. The original bock taste is malty and toasty with some hints of alcohol with no detectable hops or fruitiness. There is a variety of styles of bock including Maibock (strong beer with a lighter color and more hop), Doppelbock (double bock is high in alcohol and sweetness), Dark Doppelbock (dark beer with intense and velvety taste), Eisbock (rich and sweet beer with high alcohol content and hints of chocolate) and Weizenbock (having the strength of doppelbock, it is made from malts and wheat).
Märzen: Märzen a.k.a Märzenbier is a German larger with a medium to full body. It has a malty flavor and clean dry finish.
Vienna lagers: Vienna lagers are similar to Märzen but using a lighter roasted malt. It has medium strength with an average alcohol concentration of 5% by volume.
Pilsner: Pilsner is a German pale lager with light and clear color and has a variety of styles of hop aroma and flavor. Its alcohol content is around 4.5-5% by volume. Pilsners have a refreshing crispness with delicate bitterness.
Helles: Helles a.k.a hell is a traditional German pale lager. The word “hell” in German means bright, light or pale. Helles beers are full-bodied, mildly sweet beer with low bitterness. It has an alcohol content of 4.5-6% by volume and has a less pronounced hop flavor than pilsner beers.
Ale is different from lager whereby it is brewed using the warm fermentation method. It has a sweet, full-bodied, and fruity taste (resembling apple, pear, plum, cherry, and more).
Porter is a beer that is well-hopped and dark due to the use of brown malt in the process. The name “porter” originated from the popularity of the street and river porters. Porter tastes fruitier and sweeter and generally has a lower alcohol concentration compared to stout.
The darkest beer, Stout is a dark beer that is made from roasted malts and barley and well-known for its dark color and roasted flavors. English stout has a typically dry, bitter taste from the grains whereas American stout is usually slightly bitter and more hoppiness. There are several variations of stout, including dry stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, and imperial stout.
Stay tuned for our upcoming German Pork Knuckle with beer recipe!