Cuban Traditional Pork Roast

Ana de la Cuesta

Toreador Aria from Carmen, by Bizet. Alan Titus, Bass Baritone
CUBAN TRADITIONAL PORK ROAST	                  
Cubans celebrate Christmas, but the day that is especially important for them is Christmas Eve. The evening of December 24 is when a big dinner takes place with most of the members of the family. This is a day when they like to have a good piece of pork roasted their own way. In the countryside they generally roast a whole pig (previously cleaned) on a big, horizontal skewer over embers. This operation will take at least eight hours to finish roasting to perfection. But the deal is what they put on it as marinating material.  In any case, you will be surprised how tasty it is.  So, here is what we do at home:
Ingredients:
3 lbs of pork (4 lbs if bone-in) The portion can be bigger.
1 cup of garlic cloves peeled.
3 onions chopped in small pieces
3 Tbsp of ground cumin
1.5 Tbsp of oregano leaves
4 or 5 bay leaves
A little bit of ground pepper and salt
½ cup of bitter orange juice (Goya brand sells it in a bottle)
Directions — Day 1:
Put the pork in a glass container (never metal) and spread bitter orange juice over the surface of the pork. 
Crush the garlic and put it over the pork. Then add the onion. Continue mixing all the spices (break the bay leaves into smaller pieces) and proceed to cover the surface with this mix over the garlic and onion. 
Take a fork and start poking into the pork everywhere. The mix will start getting inside the pork. 
Now cover the container with a lid or simply with a plastic wrap. 
Put it in the fridge for approximately 24 hours before roasting. 
Note: You do not have to, but I usually open the container a couple of times and poke the pork with the fork again. I change the position of the pork, so the surface that was down will be up. Then I cover it again with the plastic wrap and return it to the fridge.)
Directions— Day 2:
Next day set up your oven to 350°F. 
While you wait until the oven is ready, pour a ½ cup of oil into a medium size container. Mix this oil with a spoon of ground cumin and ½ spoon of oregano (and if you like put a little bit of ground pepper). 
Put the pork in a metal container that has a little bit of oil on the bottom in the oven (if you prefer you could put a metal screen underneath the pork, but it is not absolutely necessary). Do not cover the container. 
20 minutes after you put the pork in the oven you will open it and use a brush to put the oil and spices over it. This will be repeated until the mix is finished. 
Make sure that the pork is done, but juicy (not over done). 
After about two hours I cut to the center so as to see how it looks. If it is done take it out of the oven and cover it letting it to “rest” for five minutes. Then it is ready to cut in slices and serve…
For those who do not eat pork, you can do the same with chicken but replace the bitter orange juice with vinegar. The rest of the steps remain pretty much the same.
Enjoy!

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