Black Forest Deli Ham
How we tested
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.