Servings: 8 Prep: 15 mins Cook: 9 hrs Total: 1 day
I have a weird fascination with Cochinita Pibil (Buried Baby Pig). This is a near ancient dish, harking from the Mayan people in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. If you’ve never had it, stop what you’re doing, start making some calls and track down the ingredients. There are only two truly odd ones (achiote paste and banana leaves), with only one being an absolute must (the achiote).
If I had to compare it to something, it most closely resembles BBQ Pork from the Eastern part of North Carolina. It’s a somewhat spicy and tart flavor. Recipes vary, but it’s usually a shredded pork, with sour orange, and achiote pasta (a paste made from the annatto seed). It’s easily one of my favorite things on this planet.
Pork was introduced to the Mayans by the Spaniards, hundreds of years ago. They Mayans would take whole baby pigs, marinate them in indigenous herbs, spices, citrus and achiote for a night or a day. Then, they would make a fire at the bottom of a pit, wrap the pork in banana leaves, then bury the whole package underground where it would slowly cook, as the acid from the citrus continued to break down the tough meat.
Seeing as I’ve lived about 25% of my life in Mexico, I like to be culturally sensitive, as often as possible. This mind blowing and historic Mexican recipe can only be described as “El Yummo!” 😉
Y es chingon, también!
Note: We’re going to substitute a crock pot for a hole in the ground. We’re also going to substitute a pork shoulder (Boston Butt) for a suckling pig. Finally, if you cannot find banana leaves (often found in both Latin and/or Asian markets), you can go without, but the achiote paste is a must!
Slow Cooker Cochinita PibilPrint Rate
- 1 each orange
- 1 3.5 oz box (about 1/3 cup) achiote paste
- 2 each jalepeno chillies seeds removed
- 2 tsp cumin seed ground
- 1 tsp coriander seed ground
- 1 tsp cinnamon ground
- 1/2 tsp cloves ground
- 1/2 bunch cilantro washed and stems removed
- 12 each garlic cloves sliced into 1/8th inch thick "chips"
- 1/2 cup lime juice freshly squeezed
- 1 each pork butt bone-in (also known as "shoulder" or "boston butt" ... about 5 to 6 lbs)
- 3 each banana leaves (optional but recommended)
- salt and pepper to taste
- With a vegetable peeler, peel 6 nice strips of JUST the outer orange rind, trying not to get any of the white pith. The strips should be about ¾-inch by 3 inches. Set aside. Juice the orange and set aside. Discard the rest of the orange.
- In a blender, combine orange juice, rind, achiote paste, lime juice, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
- With a paring knife, or a sharpening steel, deeply puncture the pork, repeatedly, making 20 to 30 deep holes around the entire surface of the meat.
- In a large bowl or storage container with a lid, liberally rub the achiote mixture from the blender all over the outside of the pork, pushing some into the holes of the pork, as well. Pour any remaining marinade over the top of the pork. Cover and refrigerate over night.
- Highly suggested, but optional step: You will want 3 nice clean and un-cracked sections of banana leaves about 1 ½ feet by 3 feet in length. Line the inside of your slow cooker with banana leaves, making sure that large flaps hang over the outside of the crock pot.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker, and pour the marinade over the top of the pork. If you used banana leaves, wrap the flaps over the top of the pork, to completely cover it, making a nice tidy little package.
- Turn the cooker to low and cook for 8 to 9 hours.
- When the meat can be easily shredded with a fork, remove it from the crock pot and shred. Add enough of the remaining juice to keep it nice and moist.
- (Optional step: I LOVE the juice at the bottom. Many simply discard it, at this point, but I will put it in a pan and slowly reduce it until it's like a thin BBQ sauce. Then, I drizzle it over the top of my meat. With the pickled onions and some salsa ... it's FANTASTIC!)
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