Today’s post is really just a culinary experiment of sorts… A few years back, I tried using pork hocks to see if I could produce the same sort of crackling, or crispy skin, that I really enjoy on a nice, good quality pork roast. The reason I tried pork hocks was because then, as now, they are the only cut that come with the skin attached on any regular basis up here in the far north. Unfortunately, the results were not that great.
Since that time, however, the techniques I featured in my posts on Perfect Roast Pork Crackling and Roast Pork with Crackling II proved very successful and so I thought I would try the hocks again. For this experiment, I am going to use the Asian method I discussed in the second post. I won’t repeat the instructions in their entirety (as you can read them in the original post) but if you read on, I will show you the way I adapted the approach to this somewhat different cut…
I thought it would be easier to make cuts in the skin while the flesh was still on the bone. As you can see, the cuts run up and down at about 1 inch intervals.
Deboning the hock can be a little tricky depending on how far down the leg the cut is taken. One thing that makes this recipe differ from using a proper roast is that the meat beneath the skin varies from being quite thick in some places to almost non-existence in others.
After the boiling water treatment, rubbing the skin with salt and the meat with chicken bouillon powder, I allowed it to dry for just over two days.
For cooking, I decided to re-form the hock into its original shape rather than letting it lay flat. I used a pin to hold the ends together and the idea was to allow the cut to stand upright so that the fat and cooking juices would run off. As I discovered in previous experiments, allowing fat to pool on the surface prevents the skin from crisping.
I cooked the pork for 50 minutes at 450 degrees (which is the same way I did things in the Asian method Roast Pork with Crackling mentioned above). Unfortunately, the contracture of the meat caused the pin to slip and the assembly unfolded, which allowed some pooling of fat in a few places. Mostly the skin was crisp as it should be but in other spots (toward the wider end) it was a bit soft.
This actually turned out quite well and, in fact, the meat was particularly delicious. Pork hocks are not my favorite cut from the pig (my wife really loves them) but roasting them like this really produces a lovely, very flavorful result.
As for the skin, I was generally impressed with the crunchy quality except for the aforementioned problem. It struck me, after I put the hock in the oven that I could easily have cooked the whole thing on the bone rather than employing this rather complicated method. I think that this would prevent the problem I experienced here and actually be even tastier. I shall try that very soon and report on my progress in due course…