What is Black Forest Ham?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Black Forest ham is a preserved pork product, traditionally made in the Black Forest region of Germany. The regional specialty is internationally famous, and it is often imitated by pork producers in other parts of the world. The real product may be ordered from Germany for consumption fresh or in cooked dishes, and people who do not want to pay a premium for the meat can explore similar ham from other regional producers.

Black Forest ham is characterized by its deep red color and rich flavor.
Black Forest ham is characterized by its deep red color and rich flavor.

The Black Forest is a famous wooded resort area in Southwestern Germany. It is a traditional source of a number of German foods and crafts, in addition to being a popular vacation spot. Within the European Union, Black Forest ham has an Appellation of Controlled Origin, meaning that only ham from the Black Forest is allowed to be labeled as such. For European consumers, this appellation ensures that they know what they are buying. Outside of Europe, the name is not regulated, and it is possible to find a number of imitations with varying levels of quality.

The Black Forest variety is typically a smoked, boneless ham.
The Black Forest variety is typically a smoked, boneless ham.

By tradition, Black Forest ham is a boneless smoked ham, which means that the chef must trim the hind leg of a pig before curing it. To make Black Forest ham, chefs start by rubbing the meat in a mixture of salt, garlic, coriander, juniper, pepper, and an assortment of other spices. It is allowed to dry cure for two weeks before the salt is scraped off and the ham cures for an additional two weeks. After this, the ham is cold smoked over fir or pine branches. During the smoking process, the ham acquires a rich flavor and a deep red color. After smoking, the meat is ready for consumption.

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

The ham can be eaten plain on sandwiches or as a meat course in a meal, or it can be cooked and added to things like pasta. Biscuits, quiche, and other savory baked goods may integrate the product as well. It is also used as a wrap for things like fruit and other meats. In Germany, Black Forest ham is an important part of many regional cuisines, along with other traditional German foods.

Black Forest ham is usually seasoned with ground coriander seeds.
Black Forest ham is usually seasoned with ground coriander seeds.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


We had a Black Forest Roast Beef sandwich with coleslaw on panini bread. Can this be a type of Black Forest beef?


@lighth0se33: That is right. The cake is from the same region. It's called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in German.


I had always wondered where the name “Black Forest ham” came from. I suppose that Black Forest cake comes from this region, too. Am I correct?

I had this rich chocolate cake once, and it was so amazing. I remember that there were cherries in it, and it was very moist.


@giddion – There aren't many calories in most types of deli ham, if you get it sliced thin and only put three or four slices on your sandwiches. My black forest ham has 30 calories per slice and only one gram of fat.

Since black forest ham has so much flavor, you really don't need to use as much of it as other types of ham in order to feel like you are eating enough. Three slices is plenty for me.

I eat it on wheat bread with a little bit of light mayonnaise. I don't feel guilty about it at all. I think it makes a great lunch sandwich.


How many calories are in black forest ham? Is it more or less caloric than regular smoked ham or honey ham?

I enjoy eating ham sandwiches now and then. I'm thinking about packing my lunch regularly, and ham will certainly be on the menu if it isn't too high in calories.


I think that smoking the ham over pine or fir branches probably gives black forest smoked ham its signature flavor. I know from living in an area filled with pine forests that the trees are very fragrant, and I would love to eat anything smoked over their wood.


I hate the smell of black forest ham.


The ham can be smoked for up to two weeks.


hi. i have been to the black forest numerous times and love schwarzwald schinken. my only question:

how long is the pork coldsmoked after it is cured? and what kind of environment as well. thanks!


I'm from Germany, and I'd like to make the following correction:

The Black Forest in Germany is close to Switzerland, but in no means to Italy. Instead, France's Alsace is only a couple miles away, so it would be much

more appropriate to point out that the region's cuisine is more like rustic French or more precisely: Alsatian, than Italian.

Anyway, it's very pretty there and the food is delicious, so if you get to Germany, skip the Cinderella castle and go to the Black Forest instead!

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