There is Cooking Beyond the Microwave
May 12, 2019

Stories told at My Mother's Recipe


The Flores Family Plus One: Cooking Lesson from Milagros

The Story

Buy the pernil the day before you plan to cook it. Make sure to get one with a small bone so you get more meat. Look at the meat and feel for the bone in the fat part. “You want meat with the bone because it tastes better, but you want a small bone so you get more meat.”

When you get the pernil home wash it with lemon juice and put it aside so you can make the adobo. “Make enough adobo so you have some for the refrigerator cause you can use it for other meat and chicken too.”

Making the Adobo

How do you make the adobo mommie? "You get fresh garlic, oregano, salt and vinegar and oil. You put them in the food processor or grind in a mortar."

So, mommie how much garlic do you need? “You know, enough to season the meat."

And how much oregano, salt, vinegar and oil? “You know, so it taste good.” She’s not giving measurements today.

…So, all the ingredients together fill about half of a spaghetti sauce jar.

Preparing the Pernil

Put the pernil on a large cutting board and get a good sharp knife (6 inches to 8 inches). Stick the knife straight in and make a pocket big enough so two fingers can fit in. Make enough pockets to season it good. About five in each side. Put some adobo on your fingers and put it in the pocket. “Make sure you got enough." Repeat until all the pockets are seasoned. Also put some on the outside and leave in fridge overnight.

Cooking the Pernil

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees (I actually got a temperature out of her). Put the pernil on a baking pan, “You know like the ones you use for the turkey on Thanksgiving, a big one but it doesn’t have to be too deep.”

Mommie, do you put anything in the pan? “You don’t have to put nothing, you just put a little water in the pan.”

Mommie, how do you know when it’s done? “Aye Eddie, you know when it’s done. You look at it and touch and taste it. For you that don’t know it, you get one of those things and push it in. When it comes up, you know (it’s done).” Do you put a fork in it to tell if it’s done? “A fork? …no, you pull some off and taste it. When it’s cooked it tastes it.”

Mommie, do you baste it while it’s cooking, you know, scoop the juices and put some on? “You gonna know it, like I told you, you get one of those things that tells you when the meats done and you put it there. When it comes up the meat is done, that’s when it’s done.” When it’s brown and tastes good you turn the oven down to 250-350 degrees to finish cooking.

Mommie, so how long should a five pound pernil take to cook, a couple of hours? “It depends how big, I can’t tell you. It depends. When it’s done it tastes good.”

Mommie, once it’s done, what do I do with it? I’ve seen it shredded, do I cut it in slices like cold cuts? “Any way you want it, cut it in pieces, you wanna cut it in slices (as she shows how to cut and slice with her hands), whatever you want to do with that.”
Do you make a gravy for it, or just scoop up the drippings? As she shakes her head while I ask and says “when the meat tastes that good you don’t need that.”

So, Mommie, what kind of wine do I drink with that? “Oh boy, …anything you want Eddie, beer, whiskey…” Diana asks, what’s your favorite ma? “Cerveza, cerveza, anything, I cannot take Heineken. Miller, Miller, that was my favorite.”

Back in the day

“People in the country used to make a fire in the ground and put charcoal in it. Then they put the whole pig on a stick with the ears and tails and turn it slowly” …but that’s another story.


This may have sounded like a story just about making pernil, but it was more than that. It was a story of reliving the past with loved ones on a special day, Mother’s Day which by the way, can be any day of the year. The recipe is important for carrying on the cooking tradition but more importantly it is a recipe for spending time with our elders, listening and talking. It serves us a meal that nourishes our lives forever.

Eddie Cocciardi, a son-in-law 

2019 May 13