Eisbein: Feast With Traditional Pork Knuckles Hitting To Berlin

It ranges in colour from bright pink to blanched, and usually comes with a scoop of green mush. Eisbein, or boiled and cured pork knuckle, may not sound very appetising, but in Berlin it’s a beloved traditional feast.

Around Germany, pork knuckle is known as schweinshaxe and is usually roasted, coming out with a crispy skin. But that’s a far cry from how it’s served in Berlin – which in truth does not look all that appetising: a paleish pink hock on a scruffy bed of sauerkraut (the name eisbein, which means “ice leg” definitely fits). But eaten with pea purée and a squirt of good mustard, it’s a delightful combination: rich, tender and salty, and as hedonistic as Berlin itself.

Nowhere does eisbein better than the city’s oldest restaurant, Zur Letzten Instanz. Dating from 1621, it’s a bulwark of real German cuisine. Over the years, the wood-panelled parlour has welcomed everyone from Napoleon and Beethoven to Angela Merkel and celebs like Jack Nicholson and Nicolas Cage.

Eisbein is the most popular dish: Zur Letzten serves up to 80 a day. The kitchen starts in the morning by brining the meat with pink curing salt, (without it, the hock would be more opaque than pink), which pickles and concentrates flavour.

The knuckles are then boiled for two-and-a-half hours with pork fat, blueberries and a secret blend of spices. Carrots, parsley and celery are added to the broth for depth. The hock is served on a bed of sauerkraut with the pea purée. “Eisbein has to be simple,” says head chef Andre Sperling. “Especially the side dishes. It’s so good, you don’t really have to show off.”