Pernil (Puerto Rican slow-roasted pork)
- December 2022
- Serves 6-8
- Hands-on time 30 min, plus overnight marinating. Oven time 6 hours
Keshia Sakarah shares her recipe for pernil. This Puerto Rican slow-roasted pork (usually leg or shoulder) is often served at Thanksgiving or Christmas. The roast pork is poised to collapse into a glistening pile of fall-apart meat. The citrus juice in the garlicky marinade helps keep everything tender, and we guarantee you’ll be fighting over the crunchy crackling.
Keshia’s story A chef and food writer who founded Caribe’ restaurant and Baruru supper club, which explores Caribbean food history and culture. Keshia’s debut cookbook, Caribe’: A Cookbook With History, is out in 2024 (Hardie Grant).
- 20.3g (6.4g saturated)
- 1.7g (0.9g sugars)
- 3-3.5kg pork shoulder, bone in
For the Adobo Mojado
- 16 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp oregano leaves, plus extra sprigs to decorate
- 20ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Juice 1 orange, plus extra wedges to decorate
- Juice 1 lime, plus extra wedges to decorate
- First, make the adobo mojado. Put 10 of the garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar and grind into a paste. Alternatively, you can finely grate or crush the garlic, then add to a bowl. Add the salt, oregano leaves, oil, black pepper and citrus juices. Mix well, then set aside.
- Use a sharp knife to carefully detach the rind from the fat on the pork shoulder to create a flap (you can also ask a butcher to do this for you). Pierce lots of small holes into the fat (underneath the flap). Slice the remaining 6 garlic cloves, then push them into the holes as far as they will go, ensuring they aren’t sticking out too much. Put the pork into a large, ovenproof roasting dish and rub the adobo mojado all over, ensuring the entire joint is covered, especially underneath the flap. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight in the fridge.
- Remove the pork from the fridge 1 hour before cooking, to come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 160°C fan/gas 4. Cover the roasting dish tightly with foil to allow the meat to steam, but make sure it isn’t touching the skin, as it may stick. Slow roast the pork for 5-6 hours. It should naturally release its own juices, but check periodically (about every 1 2 hours) to ensure it isn’t too dry. If it is, add a cup of water to the bottom of the roasting dish. Once the meat is tender and falling apart, remove the foil, turn up the oven to 210°C fan/gas 8 and bake for a further 30-45 minutes to allow the skin to crisp into crackling.
Making this dish for Christmas? All the work for this dish can be done on Christmas Eve, as the pork is best left to marinate overnight. All you need to do on the day is pop it in the oven in the morning.
“Pernil is a Puerto Rican slow-roasted pork dish (usually leg or shoulder), with tender meat and crispy crackling, often served during celebratory meals such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. The name is said to derive from the Spanish word ‘pierna’ meaning leg and ham in Catalan. It is commonly marinated in adobo mojado – a mix of garlic, oregano, extra-virgin olive oil and sour orange juice. Usually, it is served with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and tostones (twice-fried green plantain). Each element of the dish speaks to the various cultural influences from the native Taino, Spanish and West Africans within Puerto Rican culture and cooking. The dish usually includes sour orange juice, which I’ve substituted for a mixture of orange and lime juice.” Keshia Sakarah
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