Garlic Pork is a Guyanese Christmas tradition. It is not one that I grew up with. I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist home. We were not pork eaters. My dad made a great garlic beef. He used thin slices of beef to replace the pork in the traditional recipe and fried it up to a delicious tasty dish that we ate with Guyanese plait bread on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Today I am sharing my Aunty Rita's recipe for Guyanese Garlic Pork.
Aunty Rita is my great aunt (my dad's aunt) and one of my favorite aunts. We connect about almost anything, but our favorite thing to talk about is food and recipes. She is one of my oldest [if not the oldest] living relatives. As time passes I feel the overwhelming need to capture her recipes, stories about traditions and all the tidbits she kindly shares with me. This is her recipe exactly as she gave to me, measurements and instructions included. And I am honored to pass it on to you.
Origins of Garlic Pork
Guyanese Garlic Pork has Portuguese origins brought to Guyana by the Portuguese who came from the island of Madeira as indentured workers. It is very similar to the Madeiran Carne Vinha D'Alhos and while we don't put wine in our garlic pork, the method of pickling for the pork for 4 days then cooking is very similar to this Portuguese dish. It is also no surprise that it is served exclusively with plait bread, which also comes from our Portuguese ancestors.
Making the seasoning for Garlic Pork
Garlic is a key ingredient in garlic pork. Choosing the right garlic is also important. You will need fresh firm garlic. If you get garlic that is already peeled please ensure that it is fresh and not glassy looking. I used a food processor to mince my garlic and pepper but you can also use a blender with a little bit of vinegar to blend it into a smooth paste. You may also add your fresh or dried thyme to the paste or add it separately. Guyanese or Portuguese thyme is best for this recipe. If you are living in the United States you can buy dried Guyanese thyme from Kasaito.com
When testing this recipe I also smashed, chopped and simply cut the garlic bulbs in half instead of peeling and chopping. The version with the minced or blended garlic yielded the best results and is what I recommend.
Pickling the Pork for Garlic Pork
I highly recommend using a glass jar with a tight seal for this recipe. You also need a large enough jar for the pork to be completely submerged in the pickling liquids. There are two ways to set up the pickle, you can simply season your meat then add it the jar and pour the vinegar over it or you can do it in layers. I loved the look of the layering process but honestly it is not necessary. To layer the pork and seasoning, start with some vinegar, then a layer of meat, then the seasoning and thyme, then repeat until all the meat and seasoning are in your jar. Give it a little stir then seal up the jar and let it marinate for 3-4 days or until the pork turns white.
Sterilize Everything before making the Garlic Pork
The first time I made this dish, my aunt told me to sterilize the jars and utensils by boiling them in hot water and being careful not to contaminate it. So I did that in a large stock pot and careful use tongs to hold everything. I followed the instructions in this article on how to sterilize jars for canning. This time around I sterilized everything with vinegar and used sterile gloves when putting it all together. I simply poured a little vinegar over everything before I started, it was so much easier than boiling everything, but do what works for you.
Cooking the Garlic Pork on the stove top
After 3-4 days when the pork is ready, you may drain off the pickling liquids keeping the garlic and thyme. You can do this with a sieve or colander. Some people also just like to keep the pork pickling and cook small portions as needed. Just be careful to use a clean sterilized utensil every time you take from the jar so that it does not get contaminated. When cooking you don't need any additional oil or fat. If you are cooking it all at once just add the marinated pork to a large heavy bottom pot on medium heat and cook until all the liquid cooks down and it starts to cook in its own fat. I love having a good char on the garlic pork so once it started frying it its fat I let it sauté until it was really brown. If you are cooking it in small portions just add the pickled pork to a hot frying pan and cook until the liquid cooks off and it starts to brown. But be careful it may spill and splatter. I used a splatter guard like this one to prevent burns.
Cooking the Garlic Pork in the Oven
Alternatively you can cook your garlic pork in the oven. Drain the liquid from the pickled pork, then spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan. I sprayed the sheet pan with a bit of cooking spray first to prevent sticking. Then set your broiler to 500 °F and broil form 20 minutes or until the liquid cooks off and the pork is golden brown.
Save it For Later
Using other meats with this recipe
This recipe also works really well with chicken and beef. Using the same measurements I substituted the pork in this recipe for ribeye steak with a great marble and some fatty chicken thighs. The results were really great and tasty. The chicken tasted closest to the pork but the beef was equally delicious.
The Printable Guyanese Garlic Pork Recipe:
Aunty Rita's Guyanese Garlic Pork
- 3 lbs of pork shoulder or loin with visible fat cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch cubes
- ½ lb of garlic peeled
- ¼ cup of wiri wiri pepper or 2 habanero peppers
- 1 cup of fresh thyme preferably Guyanese/Portuguese thyme, or
- ½ cup of dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon of iodized sea salt
- 4 ½ cups of white distilled vinegar
Sterilize jar and all of the utensils before you begin. See note below for tips on sterilizing
Prepping the Meat
- Wash the cubed pork with ½ cup of vinegar diluted with water. Drain any excess water and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt, then mix together well and set aside
Making the seasoning
- Remove as much of the thyme from the stems (but do not throw away the stems)
- To a food processor add the peeled garlic, thyme leaves and peppers (you may remove some of the seeds and veins from the peppers for less heat), then process until smooth. You may also add these ingredients to a blender and blend with about ½ cup of vinegar
Making the Garlic Pork
- In a sterilized large glass jar add ½ cup of vinegar, followed by a layer of the pork, then a layer of the seasoning and a few of the thyme stems, then top it off with another ½ cup of vinegar
- Repeat the layering of vinegar, meat and seasoning until everything is in the jar then top it off with the remaining vinegar
- Ensure that all of the meat and seasoning is completely submerged in the vinegar and that there is enough space in the jar to accommodate all of the ingredients and liquids.
- Store in a cool dry place (typically your kitchen counter) and let it sit for 3-4 days
Cooking the Garlic Pork
Cooking all at once:
- When you are ready to cook the garlic pork, drain all of the vinegar from the pickled pork. This can be done with a sieve or colander. You may also remove the thyme stems at this point
- Then add a heavy bottom pot to medium heat and when it comes up to temperature add the marinated (pickled) pork
- Cook until all the liquids cook down and the pork starts to sizzle in its own fat
- Continue to cook until pork is golden brown, stirring often to avoid burning but being careful not to break the pork cubes apart
Cooking small portions at a time:
- Add a small frying pan to medium heat and bring up to temperature
- Then remove a small portion of the pickled pork from the jar and pat dry with paper towels
- Add pork to the frying pan and cook until all the liquid cooks off and the pork begins to "fry" in its own fat
- Sauté until golden brown, then remove from the heat
Cooking in the oven
- Drain the pork from the pickling liquids
- Then spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and add the pickled pork to the baking sheet
- Broil at 500 °F for 20 minutes or until all the liquid cooks off and the pork is golden brown
- Serve your garlic pork with Guyanese plait bread, preferable anise seed plait bread
Sterilizing the Jar and Utensils
1. You can sterilize your jars and utensils using sterilizing tips used for canning and pickling. See article here.
2. You can pour some white vinegar over the utensils and swished around inside the jar, then use sterile gloves to handle everything.