Schwarzwälderschinken at Rolf's

schwarzwalderschinken at rolfs black forest ham

Or, auf Englisch: Black Forest Ham.

By Daniel B.

Sandwiched between the Westfalianschinken and Lachschinken is possibly Albany's most popular locally-made ham. And for something that is sliced so thin, it really is a mouthful.

Schwarzwälderschinken.

It's a lot easier to say once you learn that sometimes one impossibly long word is simply three words squeezed together. In this case it's Schwarz (Black), Wälder (from the word for Forest), and Schinken (ham). From there, if you take it slowly, the pronunciation is straightforward.

Recently I chatted with Glen Eggelhoefer, who owns Rolf's Pork Store with his brother Edgar and sister Rita. He helped me make sense of the many German hams and wursts at their store in Albany, and explained why his products are so damned good.

Rolfs exteriorSo, who is Rolf?

Rolf was Glen's father, who was a butcher over in Germany and opened the store on the corner of Lexington and Sheridan Avenues in 1968. But even before it was Rolf's the building was a meat store for the better part of a century. Glen claims that the store is the oldest existing meat market in upstate New York.

Glen and his brother took over 24 years ago. "Everything I learned was from my father. I never changed anything. Everything my father did, I still do the same way."

Rolf's Schwarzwälderschinken is wet cured and hot smoked. That would be different than the dry cured and cold smoked version made in the Black Forest region of Germany. But that's okay. Its light smoke and low salt content give this ham an enchanting aroma and delicate flavor. Glen tells me this is the most popular of the hams he sells.

It is sliced very thin and enjoyed on its own. In theory I suppose you could make it into a very special ham sandwich, but somehow I always seem to devour my stash on the car ride home.

rolfs black forest ham closeup

So what's the secret?

"It's what I do to them. The way we cut 'em. The way we trim 'em. The way we cure 'em. It's my content. I use the lowest salt possible to cure a ham, and make it so it's preserved, yet I use no preservatives."

In short, it's salt, smoke and generations of craftsmanship.

glen eggelhoeferGlen clearly takes a lot of pride in his work. "I totally believe in my product. I believe the reason I look like this at 50 years old is because of what I eat. I'm a big meat eater. I do not eat vegetables." He also doesn't exercise or work out.

To be fair he's on his feet forty hours a week at the store, and while there, Glen's lifting thousands of pounds of meat every day.

Still, his products may be difficult for those who are not of German descent to navigate.

Glen acknowledges: "The American people, everybody knows what prosciutto is for some reason. Holiday Lachschinken, Bauernschinken, Westfalianschinken, they are all very similar to prosciutto, it's the same idea."

hanging hams

So we already learned that Schinken is ham. Bauer is farmer and the implication is that it was made on a farm. The one at Rolf's is imported from Germany and is most similar to prosciutto, except that it is also smoked. Sometimes the modifier is to denote the style of a region, like Westfalian (for the German region of Westfalia). Although in this case, the ham comes from New York City, and like prosciutto is dry cured. The Westfalianschinken has a much deeper smoke flavor than the Scwarzwälderschinken.

Other names are assigned based on what the product looks like. Lachs means salmon, and the lachschinken, at least in theory, is supposed to resemble smoked salmon.

Wurst is sausage. Brat is something you fry. Weiss is white. Knack is to crack, or the sound of biting into a Knackwurst. Frankfurters come from Frankfurt. Teawurst is served with tea.

Speaking of Teawurst, this is certainly not for everyone, but it's a raw pate of pork and beef that is lightly smoked. It comes either coarse or smooth, and you spread it on rye. Rolf's makes this in house, by freezing the meat for thirty days at a temperature of -10 degrees Fahrenheit, which apparently kills all the harmful bacteria. If you are a little bit adventurous you've got to give it a try.

glen at the slicer

Top chefs all over the country are curing and smoking their own meats these days. At Rolf's this isn't anything new. It's what they have done for generations. I have the sense that a lot of people do not quite realize how lucky we are to have an institution like this in our midst.

Glen reminds me about Rolf's, "We've got no competition, everyone else went out of business," but "as long as we have someone to take over [the store], it'll stay here." The good news is that Glen's nephew is already in the back learning the business.

Hopefully this helps demystify the place for you. And now you can pick up some dynamite ham for your holiday hors d'oevers spread. The Teawurst is totally optional.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the Fussy Little Blog.

Find It

Rolf's Pork Store
70 Lexington Ave
Albany, NY 12206

Comments

I love Rolf's. Glen and everyone else in the store always make you feel like family. Everything they sell is high quality and delicious. And if you're feeling adventurous you can always pick up a German crossword puzzle book! Great post!

Oh, this is good stuff, Daniel!! My boys have requested ham for Christmas Eve - any recommendations for a nice hunk 'o ham?

Rolf's is an Albany treasure.

I think there has to be a reality show in here somewhere. I don't like cupcakes. But I'd kill everyone here for some black forest ham.


This is great reportage, Daniel, and I LOVE that picture of Glen.

My mom and I come in for lunch as often as we can. The Leberkaese sandwich with just a little mustard is such a treat. Be sure to stop by during the holidays- they have an amazing selection of German chocolates, cookies, sweets, and even advent calendars and candles for your tree. Thanks for featuring such a treasure!

Rolfs makes their own outstanding corned beef, so keep in mind for st. Pat's day !

Wonderful to have this place in Albany! Good article.

Nice piece. I agree with Rebecca in re the corned beef... interestingly, Glen omits the typical pickling spice when he cures the brisket... he claims it's not part of the traditional corning process. In any event, it's delicious!

This reminds me of my childhood in a German family. I really hated Weisswurst as a kid. (Ditto for head cheese. What a concerpt.) I liked all the other wursts, but my sister and I considered Weisswurst a punishment.

Thanks for the reminder about Rolf's. A couple of years ago my German father-in-law needed some German treats to send out for Christmas and they had just what he wanted. This article reminded me that a) I was serving ham for Christmas and b) I hate ham, because it's salty. So we went to Rolf's, and they set us up perfectly -- even cut the ham into two uneven sections, because we're hosting on two successive days. Can't wait to taste it!

The best German, eastern European, meat market I have ever seen outside of Europe. It's in a class by itself.

Have wanted to try their corned beef for years!
Just couldn't make it to their location , or the event in Newtonville they sell their delicious meats from.

Glen, you've got the best meat market in the Capitol District. Keep doing your thing the way you do it now. Also this place is totally hygienically sound. Last but certainly not least, keep double smoking the slab bacon with the rind....Cheers

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