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Black Forest Deli Ham
In Germany, this boneless ham is a traditional regional specialty produced according to strict “Protected Geographic Indication” regulations. Could any domestic versions compare?
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What You Need To Know
In Germany, this boneless ham is a traditional regional specialty produced according to strict “Protected Geographic Indication” regulations. The dark exterior comes from smoke as well as a mixture of salt and spices, including garlic, sugar, and juniper berries. (Some producers dip the ham in cow’s blood to darken its exterior.) In Germany, the curing and smoking can take up to three months. In North America, the hams are usually cured quickly by brining. The smoke flavor is often artificial, and the exterior is painted with caramel coloring.
We compared German Black Forest ham made in the town of Schiltach ($17.95 per pound) with four brands of domestic ham (ranging from $5 to $10). Not surprisingly, German-made Black Forest ham was outstanding, while some domestic imitators tasted like “processed,” “rubbery” canned ham. Tasted raw, even the domestic brands we found acceptable could not compare to the German import.
But when we used the hams to make our Chicken Cordon Bleu, the smoked, paper-thin slices of the imported ham became “dry” and “leathery,” and the rich flavor was “overpowering.” For recipes that call for Black Forest ham, the top-rated domestic brand provides “good ham flavor” and “balance.” Save the imported ham to savor on its own.
Everything We Tested
This ham had “good texture” and better flavor than the other domestic brands. Although it placed second to the German ham when tasted plain, it was our favorite when we cooked it in Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Recommended with reservations
This is the real stuff. Some of our tasters found it “very smoky,” even overpowering. Others loved its concentrated, “prosciutto-like,” “silky” texture and intense ham flavor. It ranked second because we didn’t like it in Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Our tasters said this organic “all--natural” ham had “good flavor” but a “wet, mushy texture.” Overall, they rated it “average.”
This “bland” ham lacked “character” and “ham flavor.” Also, it had scant smoke flavor and was too sweet, reminding tasters of honey-baked ham.
Several tasters compared this ham (unflatteringly) to bologna. And almost everyone complained about its artificial, chemical taste.
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