Home > Food, Wine > Eisbein with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes

Eisbein with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 3 hours Yield: 4

Roasted eisbein with crispy crackling, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes

I was shopping at my favourite pork butchery (Sweetwell Farm, on the R44 just outside Somerset West) last Saturday, and saw for the umpteenth time, a number of vacuum packed smoked and pickled eisbein (literally ‘pork knuckle’).

My first introduction to this particular delicacy was in 1972 (I was about 17 at the time) in Johannesburg at the Phoenix Café, which was about three blocks from the old President Hotel. This was no pseudo-German restaurant, it was the real thing. Even the waiters were German-speaking.

Sparsely decorated, the tables were faux marble formica, topped with red and white check table clothes. The beer was draught only, served in great big schooners and unlike anything coming out of Charles Glass’s factory. At no extra charge, there was a half loaf of thinly sliced delicious rye bread stacked on a plate to enjoy as an appetiser while waiting for your meal.

The eisbien was the real thing, pickled, smoked and then slow roasted, served with a heap of fresh and tart homemade sauerkraut (fermented and pickled white cabbage) and boiled potatoes. In those days, I was allowed a half draught, and I shall never forget the night we ate there for the first time, and I was introduced to the twin joys of genuine German draught beer and eisbein mit sauerkraut und kartoffeln.

I wanted to make my own sauerkraut and will do so in the future, but it takes a week to 10 days to get to the point where it is edible, so I bought a bottle from Pick ‘n Pay which was lovely, albeit it expensive at R36.99 for 800g.

Preparation was very much a seat of the pants thing, because there aren’t too many recipes out there for the roasted version, unlike the boiled version.

To compound matters, I attended a new wine launch at Avontuur Estate in the afternoon, and since daughter Alex simply must eat by 8 o’clock at the latest, was under pressure to prepare the meal in time.

I asked dear wife Eppie to get the eisbein into the oven on time, but when cooking without a recipe, there are always a myriad questions to debate. I sincerely hope that winemaker Natalie Nel did not take it amiss that I was trading the odd SMS with Eppie during her guided tasting. Incidentally, keep an eye out for her 2009 Pinot Noir, to be launched next year. If the 2008 which we tasted is any indication, the ’09 is going to be fabulous.

To all of our German readers, please forgive me if I’ve committed any crimes with my recipe!

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

2 x pickled, smoked eisbein: rinse well under cold running water.

800g sauerkraut: served cold it is just fine, although you can warm it if you so choose.

750g baby potatoes: you may want to serve mash, which is traditional.

50g butter

2tbsp chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic: fresh, crushed.

1 carrot: halved.

½ onion

1 bay leaf

Mild German mustard: or any mustard of your choice to serve with the dish. I used whole grain Dijon mustard and it was lovely.


Place the eisbein in a saucepan together with the carrot, onion and bay leaf and just cover with cold water.

Bring to the boil then turn down to simmer for a half hour. This helps to leach out some of the salt. Drain and pat dry, and set aside.


The eisbein, roasted and ready before cutting off the skin to crisp it

Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C, and roast the eisbein on a trivet in an open roasting pan for between two and three hours depending upon size. Mine were about 800g each, and I roasted them for two and a half hours. You should use a meat thermometer if you really want to be sure they’re cooked through and not overdone. Push the thermometer probe into the thickest part of one of the eisbein, being careful not to touch a bone. Once it reaches 180 deg F or 82 deg C (my meat thermometer is old, and has both scales on it) it is done to perfection.

Remove from the oven, and carefully cut through the skin from top to bottom, and being careful to not burn yourself, strip the skin of each eisbein and set them aside in the roasting pan well covered to stay warm.


The delicous crisped pork rind after baking in the oven for 20 or so minutes

Place the skin on a baking tray, and return to the oven at 250 deg C for ten minutes then at 200 deg C for a further ten minutes to crisp the skin to perfection.

Meanwhile, boil the baby potatoes, and once they’re soft, drain them and add the butter, parsley and garlic. Cover and shake vigorously to coat the potatoes, then set aside covered to keep warm.

Divide each eisbein in half (only one person gets the bone unfortunately!) and break each crisped skin n half. Serve with a heap of baby potatoes, a pile of sauerkraut and a dab of your favourite mustard. Enjoy!

Oh, the green peas ended up on the plate because they happened to be fresh and seasonal!

Beer rather than wine

It is traditional to drink beer with esibein rather than wine, so I served a very un-German Peroni Nastro Azzurro (blue ribbon) but you could just as easily serve any beer of your choice, local or imported.

A delightful pilsner-style beer, it is brewed here under license, by that overly large beer company that Charles Glass is rumoured to have started many years ago.

The alluring advertisements and calendars aside, Peroni’s Nastro Azzurro is arguably the most iconic beer to come out of Italy.

It is available at a bearable price similar to other premium labels, but it has a style dimension in my mind that is unsurpassed.

Light gold in colour, it has pinhead bubbles which form a fine creamy head.

The palate is rich and creamy with a hint of nuttiness which morphs into a pleasing dryness, so typical of a good pilsner.

Categories: Food, Wine
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