Black Forest Ham

Beef Blood, That's the Secret ...

With its signature blood-red color and deep, smoky flavor, Germany’s Black Forest ham is a distinctive dry-cured ham. Black Forest ham is made from the knuckle of the rear leg of the pig, which is boned, cured with juniper and salt, then smoked and aged for six months.

Production of the ham is dictated by regional stipulations, which control everything from the region where the ham can be produced to the precise curing and aging processes. The air-dried ham reaches perfection in the moist climate of Northern Germany, and the resulting meat has a rich, hearty flavor. Some producers dip their curing hams into beef blood, which gives the meat its signature color.

Some wet-cured hams are referred to by the Black Forest name, but these bear no resemblance to the authentic German product. Buyer beware: a traditional Black Forest ham is dense, dark blackish red, and strongly flavored. To be sure you are getting the genuine article, ask to see the packaging—authentic Black Forest ham will be marked with its place of origin.

Because Black Forest ham has a robust flavor, it’s best when sliced very thin, and accompanied by a fine German beer. Black Forest ham also makes its way into dozens of traditional German recipes.

Black Forest ham can be ordered online at, though it’s frequently available in better delis. Take care to specify that you want authentic German Black Forest ham rather than the more widely available wet-cured variety.

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