Rojões – Portuguese pork with cumin and white wine

Rajões are as traditional Portuguese food as you can have.  Cooking rojões reminds me so much of my Grandmother, I can see her standing over the stove where a huge pot is slowly bubbling away with large pieces of pork, wearing her blue apron and a wooden spoon in her hand turning around to me asking if I want a rojõe to keep me going until lunch was ready.  She loves any part of the pig.  In rural parts of Portugal every household use to rear a pig or two.  If you had a pig you were never far away from your cellar being full with porky abundance. My Grandmother slaughtered them and was hired to slaughter her friends and neighbours pigs too.  Fearless.

The wonderful side effect of this dish is the lovely fragrance from the cumin, bay leaves and garlic while cooking.

There will be slight variations of this dish and like all traditional recipes every village or household will have their version and their way of cooking it.  I have always known rajões to be marinated in white wine, garlic, bay leaf, cumin and then cooked in the marinade.  This is how my mother does it and my Grandmother does it and my Great Grandmother did it.

Make it in advance

It is a well tempered dish, you can serve it straight away with new potatoes cooked in with the pork, or take some of the stock and roast the potatoes with that liquid.  They are the best flavoured potatoes. When you want to re-heat them make sure there is liquid in the pan and put the lid on bringing them slowly to temperature.  Like the French duck confit this pork will keep well covered in the stock you removed while browning. It will sit happy in the fridge for 10 days or freeze them, de-frost and re-heat gently in the jellyfied stock.

Fat is important

This dish will not work if there isn’t enough fat around the muscle and connective fatty tissue, or to be more precise you can still cook this but you will end up with dry pork.  The fat is crucial to having tender rojões .  For this reason if using modern breed of pig, the pork sold through supermarkets and butcher shops, use the shoulder of pork.   Stay away from using the leg unless you are using old breed of pigs which tend to be fattier animals.

Must use Salt

It is really important to marinade the pork using the salt otherwise the brining doesn’t work.  The acidity from the wine with the salt will season and flavour the pork properly not just on the surface but actually penetrate the meat.  This has been shown to be the case now scientifically but our grandparents were doing this in the olden days.  They knew what would produce a good meat dish.

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Marinate the pork the night before you want to cook it, including the salt. Make sure everything is very well mixed in, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it.

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Put the pork along with the marinade but remove most of the garlic slices (it doesn’t matter if some go through) into a large wide  enough pan to fit the pork comfortably. Bring the pork to a simmer, and simmer with the lid on for about 45 min -1 hr.

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At this point the pork should look half way cooked as the picture above. The pork will shrink quite a bit and the colour will look rather anemic and you’ll have too much liquid.

To give the pork some colour you need to remove at least half that liquid, maybe more, leaving most of the meat exposed. Keep the liquid you’ll need it for later.

Traditionally we will use some of the liquid we removed to cook new potatoes in the oven, they will taste delicious. Others will put the new potatoes in with the meat.

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Put it back on a slow simmer without a lid and you should find it starts to brown after about half hour.

At this point you need to keep checking the amount of liquid and if it appears to be drying out too fast just add a ladle of the saved stock and put the lid half covering the pan. If they are not colouring just keep the lid off. You don’t want the pan to dry out but at the same time you’re trying to brown the meat exposed, so it’s a judgement call here.

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Rojões – Portuguese Pork with Cumin and White Wine

Serves 8

I often have leftovers in a sandwich, warm it up in the microwave.

  • 2kg pork shoulder, discard the rind and you can trim some of the outer fat but keep plenty Cut the pork into very large pieces, the size of woman’s fist. They don’t have to be uniform and it does not matter if they’re small pieces mixed in
  • 2 – 2 ½ generous teaspoons of cumin
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced thickly
  • 3 bay leaves torn in half
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine, bland and nothing too strongly flavoured, stay away from likes of Australian chardonnay

Marinate the pork the night before you want to cook it or at least for 10-12 hrs with the rest of the ingredients, including the salt. Make sure everything is very well mixed in, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it.

Put the pork along with the marinade but remove most of the garlic slices (it doesn’t matter if some go through) into a large enough pan to fit the pork comfortably. Bring the pork to a simmer, and simmer with the lid on for about 45 min -1 hr

At this point the pork should look half way cooked as the picture below. The pork will shrink quite a bit and the colour will look rather anemic and you’ll have too much liquid.

To give the pork some colour you need to remove at least half that liquid, maybe more, leaving most of the meat exposed. Keep the liquid you’ll need it for later.

Traditionally we will use some of the liquid we removed to cook new potatoes in the oven, they will taste delicious. Others will put the new potatoes in with the meat.

Put it back on a slow simmer without a lid and you should find it starts to brown after about half hour.

At this point you need to keep checking the amount of liquid and if it appears to be drying out too fast just add a ladle of the saved stock and put the lid half covering the pan. If they are not colouring just keep the lid off. You don’t want the pan to dry out but at the same time you’re trying to brown the meat exposed, so it’s a judgement call here.

The pork will roughly take about 2 hours in total, it could be less or more, when it’s done it should have a nice golden colour and the meat should pull apart easily.