A few recipe notes: Prep time is at least 72 hours before the actual cooking time, so be sure to plan ahead. This is one recipe where the brine and the marinade (the Mojo sauce), need time to do their thing, which is what makes the pork juicy, tender and divinely flavorful. Don't skip or rush any part of this recipe. The time investment is well worth it.
For the Brine:
6 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 head of garlic smashed up (no need to remove peel)
In a microwave safe bowl, add four cups of water, heat until the water boils (about 3-4 minutes). Add salt and sugar, stir until dissolved, then add garlic. Allow to come to room temperature. Place your pork shoulder in a small Styrofoam cooler, add ice, the cooled brine solution and enough water to cover the pork shoulder. Brine for 12 - 24 hours, adding ice, if needed. Once the brine time is up, discard solution and go to the next step.
Tip: I have found that plain old Styrofoam coolers stay colder and the ice lasts way longer then insulated plastic coolers. If you don't have or want to buy a Styrofoam cooler and you have the space in your fridge then by all means use your fridge. Space is a premium in my fridge so it's hard to have a large piece of pork, in a brine solution, in the fridge.
For Mojo (pronounced "moe-ho") Sauce
30 cloves of garlic
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 onion chopped, finely
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
2 cups of sour orange juice
3 limes juiced
2 1/2 cups olive oil
Using a mortar and pestle, crush and mash up the garlic, salt and peppercorns.
Add the next 5 ingredients to a blender or food processor and the garlic mash from the pestle. Blend or pulse until smooth and all ingredients have been liquefied. Heat the olive oil until it reaches a temperature of about 220-225 degrees. We aren't frying here, we are infusing the flavors into the olive oil. Add in the liquefied ingredients, stir and gently heat through for 1 minute, then take it off the heat and let it cool completely.
Tip: Make the Mojo sauce the same day you begin the brine process, because the longer it sits, the more the spices, herbs and seasoning will meld! Be sure to store it in the fridge. Take out a few hours before using so that it comes to room temperature.
To Prepare the Pork:
1-2 heads of garlic, cloves separated and skins removed.
1 Large heavy duty turkey injector
Begin by straining the Mojo sauce to remove any bits that may clog your injector. Do NOT throw out the bits captured by the strainer. Set aside.
Score the skin in 2 to 3 places. Do not remove the skin. The scoring will allow the fat underneath the skin to baste the pork as it cook and it makes for the most heavenly crackling you will ever taste. (Fights have broken out over the crispy crackling at my home!) With a very sharp pairing knife, deeply puncture the pork meat in several places and insert a garlic clove or two as you go. Once you have used up the garlic cloves move on to the flavor injector. Think of the surface of your pork as a grid and starting on the skin side begin injecting the Mojo into the pork. Turn it over and continue injecting until you have used up all the sauce. Remember this captured bits? Rub them all over the skin side.
Place the pork in a large container, skin side up and allow to sit in the fridge, covered, from 12-24 hours. The longer it sits, the better the flavor.
Remove from fridge at least 2 hours before cooking so that it comes to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Remove pork from container, reserving the Mojo sauce that will have oozed out during the marinating process. Pat pork dry, and season generously with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Place pork skin side up on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Place in oven and cook at high temperature for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 325 degrees for 3 - 4 hours or until internal temperature reads 170 degrees. Use the reserved Mojo sauce to baste the pork as it cooks. Be sure to boil the Mojo sauce for a few minutes, so as not to contaminate the pork with raw pork juices, as you baste.
Once cooked, take out of the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Break apart the crispy crackling and set aside and then begin to break up
the pork meat into long thick shreds or chunks. Now, it's time to party!
Serve with Aida's Cuban Black Beans, white rice, yucca* and fried sweet plantains*, Cuban (preferably) bread, and your favorite beer and wine and of course ... Cuban Flan* (*Recipes coming within the next week). ENJOY!