Guest Author - Eileen Brown
Mojo (pronounced mo-ho) is the quintessential Cuban condiment. It is the primary marinade used in Cuban cooking and it has infinite other uses in Cuban cuisine. There are many variations of mojo, but each recipe contains the essential combination of citrus juice and garlic, well seasoned with oregano.
Whole pigs roasted in backyards at Christmas time are flavored with a fairly dry, paste-like mojo rub before they are placed on the fire. Another version of mojo, made with olive oil, is used as a marinade for other cuts of pork, as well as beef, chicken and seafood. Mojo is also used to flavor many Cuban dishes: boiled yucca root, for example, is traditionally served with a liberal dressing of mojo and sliced raw onions. Likewise, it serves as a condiment when it is sprinkled on Cuban sandwiches.
Mojo is produced by a number of manufacturers and this ubiquitous citrus and garlic blend is readily available on the shelves of Latin markets. But homemade versions of mojo also abound, because the sour orange, a tart fruit that grows throughout Cuba, was brought by Cuban immigrants to South Florida, where it now flourishes. This citrus fruit is grown in many backyard gardens. Produce departments in Latin markets frequently offer this bumpy, thick skinned sour orange, as well as bottled sour orange juice.
If you don't have access to sour oranges or to a prepared sour orange juice, you can produce an acceptable mojo by substituting equal parts fresh or processed orange juice and lime juice.
Sometimes this recipe is prepared by finely slicing the garlic and sautéing it gently in the olive oil, but in more traditional versions of mojo, the garlic is pounded to a paste with a mortar and pestle before it is sautéed, and this is the version offered here . If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can mash the garlic together with the salt and pepper using the flat side of a large chef's knife until it reaches a paste-like consistency.
Mojo (Cuban Citrus-Garlic Marinade) Recipe
3 large heads garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (or 3/4 cup fresh orange juice plus 3/4 cup fresh or bottled lime juice)
1 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 cup olive oil
Mash the garlic, salt, and pepper into a paste, using a mortar and pestle, or on a flat surface, using the side of a large chef's knife.
Place the garlic paste in a small mixing bowl and add the sour orange juice, minced onion, oregano and parsley. Stir all of the ingredients together thoroughly.
Set this mixture aside and allow the flavors to marry for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it is hot (approximately 280 degrees F.). Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully (the oil may sputter) whisk in the garlic-orange juice mixture until the ingredients are well blended. .
Place the saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mojo cool to room temperature.
Pour the mojo into a clean glass jar with a lid. Use the mojo immediately or store it in the refrigerator; it will keep for several weeks.
Shake well before using.