Black Forest Ham

Black Forest ham is a raw, cured, boneless ham with a distinctive aroma created from gentle smoking over fir and spruce wood. An added characteristic feature is the very fine fatty rind. This is important for two reasons: on one hand, the fat is flavour-carrying and on the other, the thin rind protects the Black Forest ham from drying out too fast.

The EU has extended protection for the traditional Black Forest ham-making process


Black Forest ham is made in the Black Forest region. Otherwise, it would not have this name. Nowhere may it be produced other than in the Black Forest. This is certified and protected by the European Union as formally expressed by the PGI (in Germany, g.g.A.) label, which stands for protected geographical indication.


This means, that the EU protects the traditional production process: curing, spicing, burning, smoking and maturing. All of this is performed in the Black Forest.


The EU also sets rules about where the pigs are raised. These apply regardless of national borders and local availability of the proper kind of livestock farming and certified production facilities. Eighty percent of the pork hind legs are from Germany, mainly from the north, home to traditional pig farming. The Black Forest is a low mountain range, the most frequently visited of any in Germany; hence it lacks space for large-scale pig farming. That is obvious to anyone who has ever been there. The remaining 20 percent of the pork is sourced from neighbouring countries.

Black Forest ham tastes delicious and can be enjoyed without any concerns: it has a low salt content (mildly cured), contains very little fat, lots of B-group vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12) and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and proteins.

Whole Black Forest hams can be kept for months if stored properly. They should be hung in a dry, cool room (not in the fridge), preferably in a linen bag or alternatively vacuum sealed. Once the ham has been cut, the cut surface should be sealed with cling film. Cut the ham in thin slices with a sharp knife so that the full aroma develops.

Cut ham can be kept in the fridge for a few days without loss of quality, either in the original packaging or loosely wrapped in greaseproof paper. It should be taken out of the fridge an hour or so before serving so that it can develop its aroma.