It’s funny how certain scents, music and even tv shows takes you back to a different time and place. Last night as I put together this recipe Tehya came up to me and asked “dad that smells good… what are you making?”. My response was “yea it’s smells like Christmas”. Like “Christmas”? I explained to her that I was making bake pork (roast pork in the oven) and I remembered that smell when her grandmother would make the traditional bake pork leg Christmas eve. To this day I can’t watch repeats of “The Little House On The Prairie or Waltons”, as it brings back a rush of memories. I still remember how we would all sit as a family to watch these shows as my mom would do the weekly ironing of our school uniforms and I miss the fact that we’ve all grown up and gone our separate ways.
Though Tehya didn’t remain wake to sample this amazing roasted pork, I’m sure when she comes home from school today she’ll be digging in. The ONLY approval I need when I cook is seeing our girls enjoy the final product. They are my judge and jury!
So what does Christmas smell like? Let’s get cooking so you’ll experience part of my childhood.
5 lb pork leg (with bone)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon thyme (fresh)
1 sprig of Oregano
1 spring onion with bulb
3 cloves garlic
1 lime or lemon.
1/4 habanero pepper sliced very thin (any hot pepper of your choice)
* When you purchase the piece of pork leg do get the one with the bone and with the skin/fat. Don’t worry, you can remove the fat/skin when it’s done, but we need this to help add flavour and to prevent the meat from drying off while we slow cook it. A pork loin will not give us the desired final product we’re hoping to achieve.
Start off by putting the piece of pork in a large bowl, then squeeze the juice of a lime or lemon over it and add water to wash. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel and set aside.
* if you don’t have the spring onion with the onion bulb part 9I just so happened to have some in my garden) use scallions and a normal cooking onion as replacement.
The next step is to get the seasoning ready to coat and marinate the piece of pork. Chop as fine as you can, the onion, thyme and oregano (use shado beni or cilantro if you don’t have fresh oregano) and minced the garlic. In a small bowl place all the chopped ingredients and add the salt, black pepper and olive oil. Give it a good stir, then paste it all ove the pork leg. Make some small stab cuts into the pork leg (meat side – not the fat) and work some of the seasoning into those cuts. I also try to pull the skin back a bit and put some of the herb mixture under it. If you’re wondering why we used oil in the mixture, it’s to help combine everything and to allow it to attach to the meat.
Allow this to marinate for about 1 hr.
Tip: To get the flavour but not the heat from the habnaero, use the bottom part of the pepper and don’t use any of the seeds.
TIP : I seasoned the pork in the roasting pan I’ll be using so I don’t have to worry about transferring anything when it’s time to cook and any seasoning that falls off the piece of meat will fall to the bottom of the pan and perfume the dish even further as it roast.
Preheat your oven to 375 then place the roasting pan (covered) on the middle rack and allow to cook for about 2 hrs at this temperature. TIP: Place the pork with the fat/skin side up, as mentioned before we’ll be using the fat to keep the meat moist and to add some extra flavour
After 2 hrs, I flip the pork over the pork to allow the meat side to get some of the direct heat and get the browned colour we’ll looking for. At this point I also remove the cover from the pan and allow it to cook for another hour. After the first 30 minutes of the final hour of cooking I flip back the meat with the skin side up and allow that side to get some colour as well. You will notice that the skin will shrink and not look how it did when we first started. A good way to know when the roast is done it to use push on the bone to see if it moves freely.
Allow to cool a bit before slicing and trimming out the fat and skin. My favourite way to enjoy this roasted pork is on a sandwich or on it’s own. I create a simple dipping sauce for it with equal parts ketchup and soy sauce, to which I add some of my homemade hotsauce. Whisk together with a few drops of fresh lime juice and enjoy.
BTW you’ll notice that the herbs we used in seasoning will become dark and give the impression that it’s burnt… that’s just the natural sugars caramelizing. Scoop some of that onto your sandwich as well.. it’s lovey!
Final TIP. You will now have a very dirty roasting pan which can be a bit of a task to clean. I usually get a sheet of fabric softner (static guard) and place it in the pan, fill with water and allow it to soak overnight. Not sure what happens, but all that baked-on grime releases from the pan and cleans up with soap and water.