Cochinita Pibil / Mexican Spicy, Roasted Pork

(Adapted from Mayan Cuisine: Recipes from the Yucatan Region and The Cuisines of Mexico)

3 to 3½ pounds pork butt, trimmed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 strong tablespoons achiote paste*
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1–2 habañero or jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed (to taste)
12–14 cloves garlic, peeled, ends removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup bitter (Seville) orange juice*
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 bay leaves

Grind peppercorns, cumin seed, coriander seed and allspice with a mortar and pestle (or in a spice grinder). In a blender, add ground spices, achiote paste, salt oregano, chiles, garlic, onion and liquids. Blend together. (It can be a little chunky.) Add bay leaves to the mixture.

Score the pork with a knife, cutting holes into the meat on the top and bottom. Place meat in a non-reactive/glass bowl or a freezer bag. Pour sauce over the meat and marinate for 2–3 hours, or overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the pork and its marinade into a Dutch oven or heavy roasting pan with a lid. Roast for 3 to 3.5 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Allow to cool slightly. Remove meat from the pan, discarding bay leaves. Shred the meat with a fork. (It will look like pulled pork.)

Spoon some of the cooking juices onto the shredded meat while it is still hot for more flavor and color, to taste.

Serve with cebollas moradas encurtidas (pickled red onions), chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime on soft tortillas.

*NOTES: Achiote paste is made from ground achiote (annatto) seeds. It can be found at markets selling Mexican or Guatemala foods.

Bitter (Seville) orange juice is produced by Goya and other purveyors of Latin foods. As a substitute, Diana Kennedy (the Julia Child of Mexican cooking) suggests blending 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh grapefruit rind, 3 tablespoons orange juice, 3 tablepoons grapefruit juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

TIP: This recipe works great in a slow cooker. Just thickly slice an onion and place it on the bottom of the crock. Set the pork on top of the onion slices, cover with all of the marinade and cook on low for 8 hours.

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