Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Pickling

A harvest moon will soon be hovering over the horizon, imbuing us with the golden, hazy memories of autumns past. We will sit by our bonfire, warming ourselves as every orange tongue of flame lights our faces and the images of years gone by come to life. Sitting around a fire in the fall with friends and family is a custom we never tire of. In this circle around the fire, gazing into those hypnotic flames, as surely it's happened since the beginning of time, we reflect, we laugh, sometimes we sing, and, certainly, we always eat.

This past weekend, with the hint of fall weather in the air, spectacular blue skies and crisp weather, we decided at the last minute, to have a carne asada for friends in the garden. There were salsas to prepare and grocery shopping to do.  Never backing away from further complicating my life, I decided to make pickled vegetables and serranos for us to nibble on while the fire got going. My parents always had jars of these things in Laredo. (Who would ever show up to our house without a jar of pickled peppers in hand?) My parents ate them in great quantities, plus you found them on every restaurant table in Nuevo Laredo, it was the equivalent of the ketchup bottle you would find here in a fast food restaurant. But it's not fast food, and it is something good to have in your refrigerator (or pantry if you trust your canning skills).

So, if you have a bounty of peppers, now is the time to put them in vinegar along with carrots, small onions, cloves of garlic, and marble sized potatoes, if you can find them.
Fall weather pickling

Recipe Type: appetiser

Cuisine: Mexican

Author: Gilda Valdez Carbonaro

Prep time:

Cook time:

Total time:

Serves: 8

As you canning experts know, you can add or subtract any variety of vegetables to this, for example zucchini and pearl onions, etc.


  • 4 cups marble sized potatoes

  • 1 cup serrano or jalapeño chiles

  • 6 cloves peeled garlic

  • 5 carrots, cut into thick slices

  • water to boil the vegetables

  • white or apple cider vinegar to add to the boiled vegetables

  • aromatic herbs: bay leaf, oregano, and thyme
  1. Place the potatoes, chiles, carrots, and garlic in a pot of boiling, salted water that is about one inch over the level of vegetables.

  2. Cook slowly, uncovered with a low boil.

  3. They should be cooked after about 10 minutes: check the carrots, or the potatoes for doneness.

  4. Drain most of the water and add the vinegar. It should be approximately half water, half vinegar.

  5. Cook for another 5 minutes, adding the bay leaf, sprigs of oregano and of thyme.

  6. Pour into canning jars and store in your refrigerator after they've cooled.

  7. Serve in bowls as an appetiser.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chiapas Pork Roast on Mexico's Independence Day

In the U.S., it's widely believed that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. However, Mexicans celebrate their independence on the 16th of September, the day that the criollo, Father Hidalgo, rallied the indigenous masses in the town of Dolores with "el grito"-- the shout urging them to overthrow the oppressive yoke of colonial Spanish government.  The ensuing fight for independence would last ten years.

On the 15th of September every year, the president of Mexico stands at the balcony of the Palacio Nacional to commemorate this moment. There is a sort of call and response that takes place before the explosion of fireworks. It goes like this:


¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!

¡Víva Hidalgo!

¡Viva Morelos!

¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!

¡Viva Allende!

¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!

¡Viva la independencia nacional!

¡Viva México!

¡Viva México!

¡Viva México!

The thunderous roar of the crowd's response is exhilarating and the excitement reminds them they are hungry and thirsty. Naturally, food abounds in celebrations like this where families have gathered afterwards at friends' homes for such traditional fare as mole or chiles en nogada. Further south, in the Chiapas area, perhaps you'll find a roast pork that's been cooking for hours ready for the moment when famished guests arrive after celebrations.

My sister, Laura, makes the best one I know of. Here's her recipe.

Photo by Laura Lee

Chiapas Pork Roast

Recipe Type: Main Course

Author: Gilda Valdez Carbonaro

Prep time:

Cook time:

Total time:

Serves: 6-8

  • 4 dried chiles anchos, cleaned of seeds and veins

  • several sprigs fresh thyme

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns

  • 4 cloves (whole)

  • 2 tablespoons allspice

  • 1 stick cinnamon bark

  • 5 cloves peeled garlic

  • 2/3 cup vinegar

  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt

  • 5 pounds pork roast (shoulder, with outer layer of fat, if possible)

  • 1 cup very hot water

  • 2 cups thinly sliced white or bermuda onion (for the garnish)

  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes (for the garnish)

  • 2 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce, dressed with oil and vinegar (for the garnish)
  1. Cover the chilies with the very hot water and leave soaking for 20 minutes.

  2. Drain and place in a blender jar.

  3. Crush the herbs and spices and add them, as well as the garlic, vinegar, and salt to the blender.

  4. Blend until smooth, add water if necessary to blend into a smoother consistency: a loose paste.

  5. Pierce the meat all over with the point of a sharp knife.

  6. Smear the meat with this mixture and let it marinate in the refrigerator for about 4 hours, but preferably 24 hours.

  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  8. Put the meat in a covered casserole dish and cook for 1 hour.

  9. Turn the meat, scraping the paste that is sticking to the bottom of the pan and diluting with about 1 cup of warm water and cook for another hour still covered.

  10. Turn the meat again and cook for another 2 hours, or until it's very tender, but keep basting with the pan juices.

  11. There will be plenty of sauce left in the casserole when the meat is cooked.

  12. Serve the meat sliced with some of the sauce from the pan drizzled on top and with plenty of onion rings, cilantro, sliced romaine lettuce and warm corn tortillas.