The whole hog
Pork has a bad reputation. The meat is thought to be fattening and pigs are considered filthy, disease-carrying animals because in the past, they sometimes carried trichinae, which passed on to humans who ate undercooked pork. Improved sanitation means trichinosis is less of a problem today as long as you shop at markets that buy their meat from licensed breeders.
Modern breeding methods are also resulting in leaner pork, which is good for those worried about their fat intake and cholesterol but bad for those who prefer more tasty meat. The adage, 'fat is where the flavour is' holds true with pork; fat also keeps the meat moist.
All these recipes are best made with slightly fatty pork from the butt, shoulder or loin. The loin shouldn't be mistaken for the tenderloin, which is a long, lean strip of meat. The loin usually comes with the skin-on, which makes a layer of crackling. You won't need the skin for two of these recipes so have the butcher remove it. You can save the skin and freeze it, and it's good for adding gelatin to soup stocks.
In the past, it was recommended that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius, with the instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the meat but not touching the bone. Most cookbooks now say it's safe to cook the pork to an internal temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Celsius.
Cuban roast pork with mojo criollo (pictured)
This sauce is potent, garlicky and delicious, and the leftover pork makes delicious sandwiches.
If you make this with pork loin, it can be roasted with the skin on, which gives a crispy crackling. The marinade absorbs better if the skin is removed.
Approximately 2 kgs slightly fatty pork - loin, shoulder or butt, in one piece
4 cloves garlic, crushed
? tsp dried oregano
80ml fresh orange juice
80ml fresh lime juice
60ml olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the mojo criollo:
8 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely minced
60ml fresh orange juice
30ml fresh lime juice
30ml fresh lemon juice
120ml olive oil
Mix the crushed garlic with the oregano, orange juice, lime juice and olive oil. Rub the mixture into the pork, massaging it well into the surface. Marinate for several hours, turning frequently.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the meat into the roasting pan and cook, basting frequently with the marinade until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 65 degrees Celsius. When the meat is cooked, cover with aluminium foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
While the meat is in the oven, make the mojo criollo. Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar and mix with the onion, orange, lemon and lime juices and let it stand for one hour. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan then stir in the garlic mixture.
Slice the meat thinly and drizzle the sauce over the top. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.
Pork loin braised in milk
The first recipe I ever found for pork loin braised in milk was in Marcella Hazan's excellent The Classic Italian Cookbook. Although it didn't sound appetising, I tried it because so many of her other recipes were successful. It's delicious and easy to make - the meat is seared and then covered with hot milk and simmered over a low heat. The dish used for cooking the meat should be heavy and large enough to turn the meat easily . If it's too big, however, you'll need to add a lot of milk to cover about three-quarters of the meat.
You can substitute pork butt or shoulder, but whichever cut you choose make sure the butcher ties the meat so it is compact.
30 grams unsalted butter
1 kg pork loin, butt or shoulder, tied
750ml whole milk, plus more if needed
3 large strips of lemon zest, yellow part only (use a vegetable peeler)
3-5 fresh sage leaves
Fine-flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a casserole dish and brown the meat on all sides. Heat the milk in a saucepan and when it simmers, pour it into the casserole dish. If the milk doesn't come three-quarters up the side of the meat, heat more milk and add it to the pan. Add the lemon zest and sage leaves. Put lid slightly ajar on the pan. Let the meat cook over a low heat for about two hours, or until tender. Turn the meat over a few times while it cooks. When the meat is ready, remove it from the dish and keep it warm. Discard the lemon zest and sage leaves. If the sauce hasn't thickened turn up the flame and let the milk in the dish reduce and darken into thick brown clumps. When the sauce is thick, skim off the fat that rises to the surface and then add about 30ml of warm water to the pan. Use a whisk to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom - the sauce will become smooth. Taste the seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.
Carnitas are chunks of pork that have been simmered in flavourful liquid. The chunks are then fried in their own fat. Traditionally, carnitas are wrapped in warm corn tortillas and topped with salsa and guacamole. The cola adds a slight sweetness and helps caramelise the meat.
1 kg pork shoulder, loin or butt, cut into large chunks
600ml chicken broth
100ml cola drink
Juice of one orange
Juice of half a lime
? tsp dried oregano
? tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
4 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt and pepper. Put the meat in a heavy pan, sprinkle with the oregano and red pepper flakes, then add the garlic, bay leaf, chicken broth, cola and orange and lime juices. The liquid should cover the meat; if it doesn't, add water. Start cooking over a medium heat until the liquid is simmering. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface then lower the heat and cook with the cover slightly ajar. Stir the meat frequently; when it is tender, remove the cover and simmer until the liquid is fully absorbed. Remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf, turn up the heat and let the meat fry in its own fat, turning often so it browns evenly. Drain off the fat and chop the meat roughly. Serve with tortillas, salsa and guacamole.
STYLING Leonie van Hasselt
PICTURE Timon Wehrli