Sustainable farming, Cuban style
As most of you know this year was a historic year as the USA opened up new relationships and an embassy with Cuba for the first time in 56 years. That means that American citizens can get reacquainted with Cuba for the first time in over 50 years. You still have to declare on your visa that you are traveling for educational purposes, but hey! We’ll take it!
Cuba has really had a very interesting 56 years since our break-up, particularly in regards to food. As most of us are aware, Cuba and the Soviet Union were best buds so the USA shut her doors to Cuba even though she is only 90 miles away. But what most Americans don’t know is that Cuba almost starved when the Soviet Union collapsed in1989.
The USSR and the soviet bloc were major import/export trading partners that supplied them with 80% of their food and oil so when they went under so did Cuba. During this crisis called “The Special Period” (what was so special about it??) the caloric intake of the Cuban people dropped 50%. Dogs and cats disappeared from the landscape, these people were starving! On top of it all, since oil wasn’t being traded, the fields went untilled by the useless tractors. Things were looking bleak for Cuba as America turned a baleful eye on anyone interested in helping our neighbors.
Then an innovative miracle happened in 1993 when a group of Australians broke rank and brought the concept of permaculture to Cuba. Now, permaculture is a way of farming that uses everything in nature to create a cooperative system that works together to nourish everything, not just the people. It’s kinda hard to explain but basically it is farming with what ya got and giving back to the land. Cuba really employed this form of sustainable agriculture and in a few short years became a self-sufficient island.
One great example of this is Havana. It is a very large city, roughly the size of L.A. and with permaculture the people were encouraged to grow food anywhere and everywhere. Parking lots were torn up, meridians were tilled, planter boxes built and now Havana grows 60% of its own food, right there in the city! Wow.
Through necessity, Cuba has become a world model of sustainably and innovation in agriculture. In 2013 the International Permaculture Convention was held in Cuba with many flocking to its shores to learn from them. Talk about overcoming adversity! Our country has a lot to learn from them as they feed their country with organic produce and nourish their land while doing it.
One thing that Cuba has learned is to use what they have and make their food with dynamic flavors of the tropics. If there’s one thing that turns up the volume on the taste of anything, it’s Cuban mojo sauce. Pronounced mo-ho, this sauce is a combination of garlic, citrus juices and herbs that makes a terrific marinade or as a dipping sauce.
This is the roast pork recipe developed by rock star chef, Roy Choi, for the movie “Chef”. (If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it!) This pork roast has the citrusy garlicy flavors that are distinctively Cuban that brighten the dark days of November. It’s like a party in your mouth! Use left overs to make the famous Cubano sandwich that is immensely popular in Miami. Make sure and start the recipe the night before so it can marinade. Buen provecho!
Cuban Mojo Pork Roast
You are welcome to reduce the garlic if you like but I recommend you try it. (I saw some recipes for mojo that had up to 40 cloves of garlic!) Please ask for and buy only humanely raised pork. Serves 6-8
3/4 cup of olive oil
1 cup of cilantro
Zest of one orange
3/4 cup of fresh orange juice
1/2 cup of fresh lime juice
1/4 cup of mint leaves
8-10 cloves of peeled garlic roughly chopped (yeah baby!)
1 TBLS of fresh oregano leaves
OR 2 tsp of dried oregano
1 TBLS of ground cumin
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper
3-4 pound pork shoulder (humanely raised)
One large onion, cut into rings
Cilantro and mint for garnish
I suggest putting on some Cuban salsa music for this recipe. When you have that turned up loudly, combine all the ingredients for the mojo sauce in a food processor or blender and give it a whirl till all the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the mojo into a food storage container large enough for it and the pork roast. Wash the pork roast well under cold water then gently place in the mojo sauce and roll it around till it is well acquainted with the mojo. (Reserve out 1/2 cup of the mojo if you want to use it to dip) Put the lid on the mix and stick in the fridge to marinate overnight, turning a few times if you think of it.
The next day take the pork out of the fridge, roll it around in the mojo some more then let it come up to room temp, about 30 mins. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 300 degrees, cut and place your onion rings in a dutch oven or covered baking dish, then put the pork and mojo in the pot over the onions. Cover the pot and put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes a pound, so about 2 – 2.5 hours.
When the time is up, test your pork and make sure it’s done by flaking it with fork, if it falls apart easy, it is done. Take the top off the pot and let it brown for 15-20 minutes till it is just getting crusty and golden brown. Take your delicious fragrant pork out of the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing…if you can wait. Serve with reserved mojo, black beans and rice garnished with cilantro and mint.