Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Perfect Thanksgiving Day Authentic Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

So if you have read this blog over past holidays you know that I am obsessed with cooking pernil for the family.    Pernil is the quintessential holiday roast from the Puerto Rican side of my family.   I LOVE PERNIL.    Garlicky, salty, porky goodness.    YUM YUM YUM

You can witness my obsession with pernil recipes by visiting my Pernil Pork Party.

Ok ok ok.   So over the last few weeks I have been experimenting with ideas for a better pernil recipe than what I put together last year.   I have been messing around with the brine, the cure, the timing of brine and cure, and a custom injection for the pig.

The recipe I developed this year ended up being the best pernil recipe I have ever come up with.    I have maintained all the authentic puerto rican essentials while applying a few tactics to dial up the flavors and perfect the crispy chicharron.

Ok so without any further notice here is my perfect pernil recipe for pernil al horno....

Lets start with the meat.   Get a nice 9lb picnic cut pork shoulder.  It's the perfect meat for pernil.    The better the pig the better the pernil.   Go for the good stuff and get it from your local butcher.    The picnic cut is the lower part of the shoulder as depicted here in this cool butcher pic:

The next step it to prep the meat by scoring the skin with nice long and deep lines across the skin as seen here:

My Tio Benny taught me this scoring technique.    In Cocina Criolla (the best Puerto Rican cook book) it tells you to score the skin with diamonds.    The lines going across the back of the skin from one side to the other is way better.   When the chicharron crisps up it ends up being little chicharron candy sticks.   It is awesome.   Crispy, salty, sticks of pork skin.  YUM

Now it's time for the flavor.  Pernil is all about the flavor.   For pernil al horno the authentic ingredients for flavoring are:

black peppercorn
garlic garlic garlic
salt salt salt salt :)

You will see this ingredient combination over and over again in my recipe.   It is the foundation of the pernil flavor and an absolute requirement for an authentic pernil.

The first flavor step is the brine...   Here is my perfect pernil brine recipe:

Pernil Brine Recipe:

6 bay leaves
3 stalks of oregano
25 mixed peppercorns
2 halved heads of garlic
16 cups of water
3 cups of salt
2 cups of sugar
A healthy sprinkle of Goya Adobo 

I left it in the cold brine for 24 hours sitting in the frig.   Once that was done I removed the pig from the brine and dried it off in preparation of the marinade/cure.  

Here is my recipe for the perfect pernil marinade/cure:

(Designed for a 9lb picnic cut pork)

With a mortar and pestle mash up the following:

15 cloves of garlic
2.5 tablespoons of fresh chopped oregano (a couple fo sprigs)
16 black peppercorns
12 teaspoons of kosher salt
the meat of 2 reconstituted new mexican drilled chillies

Once that is mashed up add in the following and mash it up some more until it is a nicely integrating marinade/cure

2 1/4 teaspoons of cider vinegar
2 1/4 teaspoons of olive oil

Rub down your pig with 2/3 of the marinade.   Get the rub all over the pig.   Every inch must be coated in it.    Stab the pig with a long knife to make some deep cuts in the pig that are about big enough to fit your finger in them.   Shove the remaining marinade/cure into these holes to ensure you are infusing the flavor into the meat.

Here is a pic of my marinade and my pernil after I applied the marinade/cure

Once that is all done cover it up and stick it in the frig.   Don't touch it for 3 whole days.   The longer it sits the better.  I like 3 days.

The next step is the injection.    I whip up a quick injection by making a soup from the following recipe:

2 roasted garlic heads (45 minutes in the oven at 400)
8 black peppercorns
2 sprigs of oregano chopped up
pinch of salt
splash of cider vinegar
1 cup of water

I boil it and then strain it out so I have the liquid only for the injection.   Prepare it the night before you want to cook or put it in a quick ice bath the day of to cool it down.  The injection must be cool.

Take the meat out of the frig 30 minutes before you cook it and inject about 3 injection needles worth of the soup mixture.   This gets more of the essential flavor into the pernil and also makes sure it is nice and juicy.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and stick the meat in for 35 minutes for every lb of meat.   Make sure it is covered.  About 45 minutes before its done take off the cover.   In the last 10 minutes turn it up to 450 and get that chichiarron nice and crispy.

What you get is friggin amazing.   Pure deliciousness.   The perfect pernil!


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