Hope you all had a wonderful and enjoyable Christmas. I had a very happy Christmas because I spent it with my family, my best friend Betty and my godson. Although I spent a week preparing my Christmas post and recipes, my son Christopher and nephew Marco became sick and their illness consumed all my time. With no time to write or post anything I decided to put the blog aside this week and dedicate the holidays to care for my children, family and to prepare our Christmas Eve or Noche Buena dinner. I cooked many Dominican traditional dishes, one being my traditional roast pork or pernil recipe that is most popular among my family members and friends. I will be posting some of these recipes in the near future with the hope that you like and prepare them a home or for your holidays.
What makes a Latino Christmas?
Latin American is the expression of 5oo years of mixing cultures and heritage. This culture is reflected in the melting of our indigenous native, the Africa slaves and the Spanish colonizers. Our culture is rich in oral traditions, and Christmas or Navidad is perhaps the most important expression of this tradition. A tradition originated in Roman Catholicism, an expression of Christianity, a belief which is predominant in Latin America.
Christmas time with its music, lights, parties, fireworks, food, the villancicos, Las posadas and the novenas navideñas are all testimonies of these oral traditions which has been passed on from one generation to another.
In Latin America, la navidad is the most important holiday of the year. For the Latinos, Las Navidades, is a time to be spent with the family and close friends. Most of the Latin American countries make this time of the year a time for religious reflections, ritual, joy and a time for solidarity.
- 9-10 pounds pork shoulder or Pernil
- 1 head garlic
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns-fresh grounded
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Sazon Goya with bitter orange
- 1-2 lemons or bitter oranges
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 3 large sprigs fresh sage
- 3 large sprigs rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dry rosemary grounded
- 1 Laurel leave grounded
- 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
For the seasoning:
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until everything is well integrated and smooth.
For the pork:
Clean and get rid of any extra fat that is hanging or bloody. Dry the meat well with a paper towel. With a sharp knife make an incisor on a part of the skin and remove the skin from the fresh through the incision, the skin has to remain attached to the meat on the edges.
Make deep cuts or more incision through the whole piece of meat. Take the seasoning mixture and rub the meat under the skin and throughout the whole roast. Place some of the seasoning inside the deep cuts; make sure the seasoning penetrate inside the holes, this will flavor the meat. Apply the rub the night before cooking or for at least 4 hours before and refrigerate until needed. The following day pull the seasoned pork from the refrigerator at least an hour before roasting it. Place the seasoned pork in a baking pan with a rack and cover with foil.
Bake the pork for 5 to 6 hours, the first 2 at 350 degrees F, and then at 325. Keep the roast covered for the first two hours, then uncover it and basted the roast with the released liquid and keep roasting the pork for the remaining 3 hours or until the skin is crusted and the meat is fork tender. Enjoy!
More to read below….
Preparation for Christmas Eve or Noche Buena
Christmas Eve or Noche Buena is a day when all Latin Americans family and friends get together to celebrate their cultural and religion values, to sing, to dance, to eat a big feast and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We all agree that a Latina Christmas eve is an evening of festivities where everyone is in a happy state of mind. We also have to agree that there are some differences (of course this is something to be expected because we are all different) in the way we celebrate this universal day. However, one thing most Latin people have in common is that our family comes first, especially at Christmas time.
Due to cultural and different idiosyncrasies among our countries there are some differences in some of the ways this holiday is celebrated. The most commonly shared traditions include the Nativity scene or pesebre, las novenas, Christmas trees, traditional food, long lasting parties, fireworks, aguinaldos or caroling, angelitos secretos/secret angel’s games and villancicos. The Misa del Gallo or “Rooster Mass” is perhaps the most common tradition universally shared between all of us.
In the Dominican Republic for example, parties are found everywhere on Noche Buena. Some of the parties carry on until the early hours of the morning. The parties are only interrupted by the most religious ones for the Misa del Gallo at midnight. After mass, the parties will continue and people will dance, sing and drink themselves to the early mornings.
In the Dominican Republic and also in Cuba Santa Claus is not an important figure among the children, the three kings or Reyes Magos are. The children do not receive presents on Christmas Day as they would in the United States but instead on January 6th. Traditionally, and as a sign of offerings, children leave grass for the camels and candies for the Kings under their beds. I used to do this when I was little (what a genuine and beautiful tradition, it makes me sad that it is almost disappearing).
Unlike the United State, Christmas Day is traditionally a relaxed day for the Latinos. It is a day where people recover from all the festivities of the previous evening.
The preparations for Christmas starts early in the DR, everyone starts decorating as early as November if not earlier. The windows, balconies are decorated with festive lights, and a Christmas tree is always present, being the Charamico (a dry tree or branch) a favorite tradition. The Charamico is a Dominican folk art and can be found everywhere in the DR.
Christmas is a special time of the year; the auras of the holidays are everywhere, everybody is returning home from oversea, especially from New York. The excitement is present on the streets, in the Zona Colonial and the Malecon areas, for example, some streets are closed for the Dominican music bands to play and people to dance at the rhythm of a perico ripio (literally means “ripped parrot” but really means merengue tipico- musical genre of the Dominican Republic). Christmas music, especially Christmas merengues are played everywhere. The Nacimiento or Nativity Scene is seen also everywhere. The government palace in Gazcue, Santo Domingo displays a beautiful Nativity Scene. The Neighborhood of Gazcue also organizes the aguinaldos or morning caroling every year.
Traditionally, an essential part of the celebrations of Noche Buena, especially for the children, are the fireworks. Although they have been banned people still shoot them. The fireworks are sold everywhere for the delight of all the people who enjoy them.
For the Dominican, when it comes to traditional Christmas food, the center of the Noche Buena or Christmas eve feast is the roasted pig similar to my “Rosemary Roasted Pork Shoulder” or our good friend the Turkey or its substitute, the roasted chicken, served with rice with guandule or some sort of rice dish, potatoes salad Russian style, and a Dominican bread called telera and tamales. The smell of the food is everywhere as the women are busy cooking in the kitchen all day long. The happiness of the people, the decoration in the houses, the lights on the streets, the food, the fireworks and most important the festive feelings make Christmas in the Dominican Republic a place where many Dominicans want to be.
This post is also available in: Spanish