Black Forest Ham is not your typical Christmas or Easter ham. It's a smoked ham that is typically cut up and served as sandwich meat. When you bring it home from the supermarket or butcher shop, it is not required that you cook it. However, you can heat it up in just a few minutes to add to a hot meal.
Black Forest Ham comes from the Black Forest region of Germany, where it was originally coated with beef blood to give it that signature dark color. This practice has long since expired and now the ham gets it color as a result of the application of various spices during its smoking process. The ham is boneless, with a dark pink to red color. It has a layer of fat on one side with a few streaks of fat in the middle. It is made from the hind leg of the pig.
According to the Association of Black Forest Ham website, before going into the curing process the ham is rubbed with pickling salt, juniper, elderberry, garlic and coriander. After these are added, the ham is placed in a pickling container. The salt takes the water out of the ham and brine develops. The ham is kept that way for two weeks. It is then brought into a curing room. This is a cooling room where it will sit for another 14 days to "afterburn" before going into a smoked chamber. It will hang there in smoking towers for up to three weeks. It will be smoked at 25 degrees Fahrenheit over natural fir and fir sawdust. Then the ham will spend four to seven weeks in a refrigerated aging room.
Made to Order
Due to this curing process, the meat is already fully cooked for your consumption when you bring it home from the supermarket or butcher shop. If you are going to pair it with pasta or want it heated for another dish, bake it in a shallow dish at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes per pound.
The Association of Black Forest Ham Manufacturers reported record sales of Black Forest Ham in 2008. While almost 40 thousand tons was produced, more than 6.8 million hams were sold in Germany and throughout Europe, which was 13.5 percent more than in 2007.