Get Cooking: Pernil, slow-roasted pork, is perfect for Memorial Day weekend

By Bill St. John, Special to The Denver Post

A few years ago, while living among the Denver diaspora in Chicago, I learned the basics of this recipe from a man in the Pilsen neighborhood there. It is a slow-roasted mass of pork called “pernil.” Puerto Ricans serve it at Christmastime, commonly, but I think pernil is perfect for gatherings on Memorial Day.

Because it makes memories.

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder or “Pernil”

Recipe from Bill St John


5-6 pounds bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder

1 tablespoon red chili powder (heat level your choice)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)

3 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

7-10 peeled garlic cloves

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil


Assemble the chili powder, brown sugar, oregano, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or bottom of a large mortar. Add the garlic, lemon rind and juice, the vinegar and olive oil, and process or grind everything into a fine paste. Set aside.

Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry with paper toweling. Lay it skin side up. (This should also be the side with the greatest amount of fat.)

Slicing away with your knife just under the skin, peel back the skin atop the pork, making sure that the skin is neither pierced by your knife nor pulled away completely from both the meat and bone end. If there is too much fat to your liking, remove some of it, nonetheless retaining a good amount of fat (it is necessary for self-basting the meat as it cooks).

Take a small paring knife and make fairly deep, 1-inch slits all over the pork, twisting so that the incisions can be plugged with the paste. Rub the paste all over the pork, on all sides, top and bottom, and stick as much of the paste as you can into the many slits. Place the pork in a roasting pan and cover it with a lid or plastic wrap; place it in the refrigerator and let it marinate overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Take it out of the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before you begin to cook it so that it will approach room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the pork, covered, in the oven for 1/2 hour. Then lower the heat to 250 degrees and cook it, basting occasionally with the accumulating juices, for up to 5-6 more hours (I have cooked it for up to 8 hours), lowering the heat even more if it appears to be browning too quickly.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle

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