Cuban Mojo-Marinated Pork Shoulder
What causes a French, German and British girl to obsess for weeks on end about Citrus Mojo-Marinated Pork Shoulder? Sure, I’ve always loved Latin food, the flavors are so bright and warm and exciting. But, as much as I’d love to be, I have no Latin blood running through my veins. And the only real Latin American food I knew was the Mexican food I had in Arizona growing up. A year ago, I watched the movie Chef. The bright colors, passion of the main character, and the reactions to the mojo peaked my interest and my Pinterest searches intensified the curiosity.
And everywhere I’d go, I’d see lots of recipes that just looked unbelievable. But I always put off making it because I had no frame of reference and I hate when I overcook pork. The only way I’d make pork was to slow cook a pork butt and shred it. Then I got my sous vide and overcooking meat became a thing of the past, as did all of my excuses.
What is a Mojo?
Before “Chef”, I had never heard of Cuban Mojo. So after a lot of research and reading and learning, I learned that mojo sauce is a pork marinade that originated in the Canary Islands and has made its way through South America and the Caribbean, going all the way into the southern United States. It is packed with flavor and though most often paired with pork will work in many other dishes. Mojo changes based on the region you are in. Puerto Rican mojo is heavy in cilantro or parlsey and focuses on a vinegar base. In Cuba, it focuses on a base of garlic, olive oil and citrus. Knowing what I know about flavors and combining a ton of what I saw in various recipes, I created my own Mojo recipe.
How I Made my Own Cuban Mojo
Traditionally, Cuban Mojo is made with bitter orange juice. I’ve never heard of bitter oranges, so I did some research and found that “Bitter orange, Seville orange, sour orange, bigarade orange, or marmalade orange refers to a citrus tree and its fruit. It is a hybrid between Citrus maxima and Citrus reticulata (Wikipedia). I was unable to find any Seville oranges at my local megamart, so I combined non-pasteurized orange juice with lime juice. I do love the taste of pineapple so I added some crushed pineapple as well. Totally not traditional, but if you can’t play with flavors to find something that you like, why cook at all?
I personally adore cilantro in moderation. It adds a freshness and elevates a lot of my favorite foods, from pho to Cuban Mojo-Marinated Pork Shoulder. Mint goes really well with citrus. Garlic is traditional. I took whole cumin seeds and toasted them, because I don’t like the taste of non-toasted cumin. And ginger because it is a favorite flavor with pork, mint, and cilantro. I put it into a blender and whirled until smooth. A taste of the spoon and my eyes rolled up in my head. This was gonna be good.
I divided the Cuban mojo marinade equally over the salted pork steaks I had cut the whole pork butt into and stashed the pork in the fridge to soak up flavor overnight. I woke up in the morning and warmed up my sous vide water to 176 °F / 80 °C. When warming up a large amount of water like I have to when I cook big roasts like this I recommend heating a lot of the water on the stove. My tap water warms up to about 130 degrees and the last 46 degrees can take over an hour. I’m all about efficiency, so warming up a couple of gallons on the stove and tempering it with cooler water until it is closer to my target temperature makes life better.
Anyway, after 8 hours of cooking, I browned the meat in the oven under the broiler because I still don’t have a grill that would sear this fast enough. The meat is already cooked and I don’t want to heat it too long. 2-3 minutes per side under the broiler was enough. Definitely watch the meat closely though, it can burn fast!
The meat is juicy, delicious and amazing. It is officially my favorite way to prepare pork butt. One thing I want to try is cooking it most of the way through then putting it in my smoker for the last 2 hours at the same 176 degree temperature with a light fruit-y wood like apple. I think it would add a nice smokey flavor and also get that gorgeous crusty brown on the outside. I’ll try that this weekend when I make this for my in-laws who are coming into town and I’ll report back on how it went.
Other than just slicing Cuban Mojo-Marinated Pork Shoulder and eating it with Cuban Beans and rice, you can make the iconic Cubano Sandwich. I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to do this later today, gotta get some work done for my other job first. I really hope you’ll try this recipe. It is amazing.
What other Latin dishes do you love? I really want to experiment with Plantains.