How Do I Choose the Best Black Forest Ham?

T. Carrier

Ham comes from a hog’s hind leg, and this pinkish pork product typically has a smoky and sometimes sweet flavor. Black Forest hams derive their name from their land of origin: the Black Forest region of Germany. A true Black Forest ham can be differentiated by its darker color and its more intense flavor. Different preparation methods like pine-smoking and salt preservation characterize quality Black Forest hams, as does a German manufacturing label. Size, cost, and nutritional value are other factors you should consider before purchasing.

Sandwich made with Black Forest ham.
Sandwich made with Black Forest ham.

Quality Black Forest brands tend to be very moist, tender, and boneless. Spices such as garlic and pepper are commonly used. The overall process for Black Forest ham can take several months, so varieties made in the homeland of Germany are more likely to fully respect this tradition.

True Black Forest hams have a deep, rich flavor.
True Black Forest hams have a deep, rich flavor.

A Black Forest ham or any type of ham should be preserved. This means that substances are placed on the ham that combat bacteria and that also keep and enhance flavor. More modern methods use components like salt water and phosphates to treat ham. For a more authentic Black Forest experience, choose a ham that is cold pine-smoked and preserved with real salt.

More manufacturing-heavy Black Forest hams may carry lower price tags, however. Better still, the ham is usually ready to eat when it is purchased. Some types are even pre-sliced. If you desire the more traditional Black Forest ham experience, be prepared for a higher price tag. The ham will also likely require some preparation, such as soaking and cooking. Richer flavors may compensate for these drawbacks, however.

The size of your Black Forest ham should be evaluated as well. If you are serving a large crowd, then the large 20 pound (about 9.1 kilograms) hams may be unavoidable. Smaller hams are preferable, though, as you will avoid storage problems and an endless supply of leftovers. If you have a good idea of how many people you will be serving, you could multiply that number by 6 to 8 ounces (about 170 to 227 grams) for an estimation of the required Black Forest ham amount.

In addition, some of the hams are beef blood-dipped to give them a unique color. This technique was commonly used for early Black Forest ham preparations. A weak stomach may revolt at this notion, however. Many modern manufacturers simply use synthetic coloring substances to give the ham its appearance.

A true Black Forest ham should have some nutritional value. Proteins and vitamin B are particularly nutrient-heavy components of quality Black Forest hams, so you should evaluate these components on nutritional labels. Fat levels also tend to run on the low side, at 2 grams (or 0.07 ounces) of heart-healthy fat per serving.

Black pepper is often added to season Black Forest ham.
Black pepper is often added to season Black Forest ham.

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Discussion Comments


I bought a Black Forest ham at a local grocery store with German connections and it was absolutely delicious. I'd never had one before, so I did some research online. Other meat processors can legally duplicate the Black Forest ham technique, but they cannot call their product Black Forest ham.

I usually get a spiral-sliced ham for Easter, but I think I'm going to get another Black Forest ham next year. The leftovers make great sandwiches and salads after the holiday.

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