Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Venezuelan Style Pork Shoulder or "El Pernil": A Christmas Tradition

Ever since I remember we always enjoyed a good "Pernil"on our Christmas table. Although I really like it, I never tried to make it myself since I left Venezuela. My mom always takes care of that issue. But this year I decided to cook one! Of course I had to get the recipe from my mom.

I called my mom and learnt that she has been cooking Pernil for our family Christmas since 1962!!!! Wow!!

Here is the recipe as my mom gave it to me, note that she did not give me any measures - as a good Latina, she cooks “al ojo” or with a little bit of this and a pinch of that!  But do not worry I added the amounts of ingredients I used for this one.


  • Pork shoulder (boned)
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Garlic 
  • Chicken bouillon 
  • Olive Oil 
  • Brown Mustard 
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Leeks
  • White Wine
Put all the ingredients (except the pork of course) in a blender or food processor until you have a paste (here is the personal touch, as there are no measurements, taste as you go so the paste is not too salty or too bland). To give you an idea, this is how much of everything I used this time: 1 large onion (about the size of a softball), 3 medium bell peppers, half a head of garlic (I like garlic), a cup of wine, 6 chicken bouillon cubes, 4 tablespoons of mustard and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I did not put much salt as the bouillon is salty.

Rinse the pork and bathe with the paste on all sides, place in a covered container or plastic bag and refrigerate to marinate for 24 hours - You can marinate this up to a week before you cook it. Just place the pork in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator the day before you want to cook it.

Cook the pork on a roaster, put the pork on the grill and place any remaining marinade at the bottom of the roaster, add a little water and if you want potatoes, carrots and onions. A Puerto Rican friend told me to always put the skin or fatty part of the shoulder up. Cover the pork with aluminum foil to conserve the juices while cooking.

Calculate the cooking time at 15 to 20 minutes per pound of meat. Preheat the oven at 180 and cook the pork at this temperature for half of the cooking time. At half time, rotate your roaster and then turn the heat to 350 and cook for the rest of the time. After you raise the oven temperature, check your pork every 45 minutes or so. Checking involves the following:  remove the foil paper, baste the pork with its juices, check that the water on the tray has not evaporated, if so add more, put the foil back up again. Uncovered the pork for the last 25 minutes and check that it does not brown too much, if so, cover again.

Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the oven and let stand for 30 minutes before carving so that it retains is juices.

To make gravy, place the roster in the cooker ad pour a little water and white wine. Warm at low heat and with a wooden paddle loosen off all the bits of pork and vegetables that have adhered to the tray. Once it is all off, strain the liquid and put in a pan, taste and add salt and pepper to taste and thicken with a little cornstarch.

And that is it!!! The pork should be very tender and delicious - you can truly cut it with a fork!

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