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Braised Ham Hocks with Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes

Words: Jeremy Conner
Photos: Sara Virginia Yongue

Louisiana loves pork.  In the Prairie region, home of the Eunice Superette, smoking meats has been a long-standing tradition.

When I began purchasing whole hogs from the Superette and butchering them in the restaurant, there were lots of “undesirable” cuts that needed to be used in order to realize the full value of the whole animal.  This can task a chef’s creativity, but one cut that was never a problem were the ham hocks.

Braised Ham Hocks with Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes Skillet

Once smoked and then braised, they’ve got beautifully tender morsels of meat that hold on to flavor and they’re spectacular in a sauce made from their own stock.

You can buy smoked ham hocks from a good butcher or smoke your own.  From there, this dish really comes together with some sweet potatoes and braised mustard greens.  In the spring and summer, Louisiana growers offer great yams, well cured from the winter harvest, and a nice variety of field greens.

Braised Ham Hocks with Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes Season

Braised Ham Hocks with Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes
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Ham Hocks
  1. 2 whole ham hocks, smoked
  2. 1 gallon water to cover in a braising pan SEE COMMENT 1 (You can also add a bottle or two of a nice dark beer or cider, if desired.)
  3. 2 yellow onions, sliced ½-inch thick
  4. 3 bay leaves
  5. 20 whole black peppercorns
  6. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  7. 5 cloves fresh garlic
  8. Salt, to taste
Mustard Greens
  1. 1 to 2 bunches fresh mustard greens, trimmed and washed thoroughly
  2. Reserve one-third braising liquid
  3. 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
  4. ½ cup sugar (Adventurous cooks can substitute a can of cola.)
  5. ¾ teaspoon salt
Sweet Potatoes
  1. 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  2. ¼ cup molasses or cane syrup
  3. Reserved ⅓ braising liquid
  1. Reserved ham hocks
  2. Reserved ⅓ braising liquid
  3. Reserved sweet potatoes
  4. 3 tablespoons butter
  5. Salt, to taste
  6. Ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 275°.
  2. For ham hocks: In a braising pan or a large Dutch oven, place ham hocks and 1 gallon water to cover, including beer or cider, if desired. Add onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, garlic, and salt. (Smoked ham hocks will have already been cured, so seasoning them is not required, but you’ll want to lightly salt the braising liquid. It will be reduced, concentrating the salt, so not too much.)
  3. Cover and place in oven. Cook for 6 to 8 hours. (The goal is to get the meat on the bones very tender without the hocks falling apart, so check them periodically once you reach 6 hours.) Once tender, remove from oven, and set aside to let cool. Drain liquid from pan, and strain. Divide liquid into thirds, and reserve.
  4. For mustard greens: In a stockpot, place all ingredients and water to cover, if necessary. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook until greens are tender, about 1 hour. (Note: Mustard greens cook more quickly than collards, kale, and other field greens.) Remove from heat, and set aside.
  5. For sweet potatoes: In a saucepot, place all ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook until sweet potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
  6. For sauce: Carefully remove skins from cooled ham hocks. In a medium saucepan, place remaining braising liquid and skins. Bring to a simmer, and cook liquid down slowly until it just begins to thicken. Remove skins and discard. Add ham hocks, and continue to simmer, gently heating ham hocks. Once heated through, add sweet potatoes, and bring them up to temperature as well.
  7. Place a serving of mustard greens on each of 2 serving plates. Add sweet potatoes; top each plate with a ham hock, arranging so the end of the hock with the two smaller bones points upward. Add butter, salt, and pepper to sauce; stir to combine. Lace sauce over plates, and serve.
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Braised Ham Hocks with Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes Plate

Braised Ham Hocks


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