A ham hock or hough is the joint between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot, where the foot was attached to the hog's leg. It is the portion of the leg that is neither part of the ham proper nor the foot or ankle, but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone and the associated skin, fat, tendons, and muscle. This piece generally consists of too much skin and gristle to be palatable on its own, so it is usually cooked with greens and other vegetables in order to give them additional flavor (generally that of pork fat and smoke), although the meat from particularly meaty hocks may be removed and served.
Ham hocks, hog jowls (pigs' cheeks), or also known as pig's knuckles add their flavor to various dishes. This is particularly true for collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, green beans and navy beans.
Ham hocks are essential ingredients in soul food and other forms of American Southern country cooking. Eisbein is the name of the joint in German, and also the name of a north German dish using the lower part of the ham hock, cured and boiled. Schweinshaxe is a Bavarian dish of roasted ham hock. They are also popular when boiled with escarole, more commonly called endives, in Italian American cuisine.