The production of Black Forest ham can take up to three months. Raw ham is salted and seasoned with garlic, coriander, pepper, juniper berries and other spices. After curing for two weeks, the salt is removed and the ham cures for another two weeks.
Next, the ham is cold smoked at a temperature of 25°C (77°F) for several weeks, during which time the ham acquires its deep red color. The smoke is created by burning fir brush and sawdust. The smoking process gives the ham much of its flavor.
Black Forest ham has a very pronounced flavor and is common in German cuisine. It may be eaten fresh, for example on bread or with fruit, or used as an ingredient in cooked dishes. In Germany the ham sells for about EUR 14/kilogram, or about $9.40/pound.
The term "Black Forest ham" is a Protected designation of origin in the European Union, meaning that anything sold in the EU as "Black Forest ham" must come from the Black Forest. However, this is not the case in non-EU countries, particularly in United States and Canada; as a result, most of the "Black Forest ham" sold in the non-EU countries bears little or no resemblance to the genuine product.
Black Forest ham is also a traditional lunch-time meal for Public Works employees of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It is thought that this tradition began when Olympic Peninsula members of the Industrial Workers of the World, during a 1922 sympathy strike with German food workers who had been locked out of the Black Forest, refused to eat German food exports. When the 18 month lock out ended with significant gains made by the German Black Forest ham hunters, their sympathetic counterparts in the U.S. celebrated with a Black Forest Ham festival. Black Forest Ham sandwiches and a Black Forest Ham muffin, a dish unique to the Pacific Northwest, can still be found in the lunch pails of Jefferson County Public Works Roads Department employees on nearly any given day.