A ham hock is the cut of pork from the joint where a pig's foot connects to the leg. Though it's not as common as other cuts, ham hock is essential in southern cooking and creates a deep, flavorful addition to many recipes. However, the ham hock itself is not usually the main part of the dish. It is made of skin, tendons, ligaments and only a little lean muscle, the ham hock does not typically offer up much substantial meat to eat. Therefore, it is frequently used to flavor meals such as soups, stews, beans and greens as an added seasoning.

Ham hocks can be found fresh at the butcher, but are usually sold smoked, cured or both. It is usually a cheap cut of meat because it is so lean, and because it is used mostly for seasoning other dishes. A ham hock imparts a smoky, salty flavor that gives more depth to the meals it's used to season. Cooking with a ham hock can be a relatively easy way to add boldness to otherwise mundane dishes and is sure to impress guests at the dinner table. Take a stab at the following six recipes to help expand your culinary skills:

Ham Hock And Lentils

Lentils are a small legume commonly sold as whole green or split red, that require a long, slow cook time. And they pair well with salty, smoky ham hocks for a delicious meal. This recipe cooks the ham hock first, which is then used to create a savory broth, which is then used to slow cook the lentils. After the lentils have cooked with other ingredients such as onions, carrots and celery, the shredded ham hock is added back into the lentils to create a savory ham hock and lentils dish.

ham hock in collard greens

Creamy Potato And Ham Hock Slow Cooker Soup

Potatoes are an impressionable food that easily soak up the flavors of the ingredients they are cooked with. Create this savory, comforting soup by combining potatoes and ham hocks in a slow cooker. As the ham hocks and potatoes cook together with other ingredients and seasonings, the potatoes will begin to cook down and absorb the smoky, salty taste of the ham hocks. After everything is finished, blend the potatoes with some milk or cream to make a smoky, delectable creamy potato and ham hock soup.

Ham Hock And Wild Green Gumbo

Bring an authentic New Orleans flavor to your kitchen with this recipe. Simply combine the ham hocks with an assortment of bitter collard, arugula, mustard, kale, turnips, onions and peppers to create a hearty green gumbo. Using herbs, spices and creole seasoning, this slow-cooked meal boasts a lot of flavor with a little added heat. Serve the ham hock and wild green gumbo over rice to complete the meal.

Cowboy Beans

This recipe name alone conjures up images of enjoying a hot, hearty meal after a long day's work, sure to please the taste buds and satisfy your hunger. Cowboy beans are created with deep flavors such as coffee, ham hocks and barbecue sauce. The ingredients are slow cooked with vegetables such as onions and garlic, producing a finished meal similar to a bean chili. Spice up the cowboy beans by adding chopped jalapeños and top off the dish with shredded cheese. Complement the meal by serving it up with some warm cornbread.

ham hock and beans cooking in a pot

Mac And Cheese With Smoked Ham Hocks And Fresno Chiles

Put a spin on a traditional dish of macaroni and cheese with this recipe. The salty, smoky flavor of a ham hock balances the creamy, decadent taste of cheese for a delicious treat. Though recipe calls for chiles, the peppers can be omitted if hot spice is not wanted. Just cook up the ham hock and set it aside to add to the cheesy macaroni. Once the mac 'n' cheese is cooked and the ham hock is chopped up and added, you can either serve the dish as is or bake it in the oven topped with breadcrumbs.

Broiled Ham Hock With Braised Cabbage

Cabbage is a somewhat delicate green that is neither bitter nor sweet, so it matches well with a number of foods, including ham hocks. Cabbage can develop a tangy flavor that the smoky, saltiness of the ham hock complements nicely. This recipe simmers ham hocks slowly with ingredients including onions, celery, carrots and spices. The cabbage is sautéed on top of the stove with balsamic vinegar. Everything is then added together and broiled for a short time to complete the dish.

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