This party dish comes from Zarela Martinez’s wonderful “Zarela’s Veracruz,” which is still available in hardcover and paperback from Amazon.com. You must have fresh ham, not smoked or brine-cured. You can substitute pork loin for the ham, but it could come out dry, so make sure it is well basted.
Carne en Salsa de Licores (Pork in Fruit Liqueur Sauce)
9 garlic cloves, 5 coarsely chopped, 4 left whole
6 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only, or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried thyme
6 fresh oregano sprigs, leaves only, or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried oregano
10 Italian parsley sprigs
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste, divided use
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 fresh ham, preferably butt half (bone in); about 6 pounds
2-3 tablespoons lard, preferably freshly rendered
1 large white onion, sliced into thin half-moons
6 scallions, green tops only, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups orange liqueur, preferably a low-alcohol brand
1 cup blackberry liqueur, preferably a low-alcohol brand
1 cup cider vinegar
Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the chopped garlic to a paste with the herbs, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. With the top of a sharp knife, pierce shallow incisions all over the ham, and push a little of the paste into each. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Rub a light film of lard all over the meat and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Scatter the onion, scallions and whole garlic cloves over the bottom of a large deep baking pan. Place the ham on this bed of aromatics. Combine the liqueurs and vinegar in a medium bowl and pour over the meat. Cover the pan tightly (wrap snugly in several layers of aluminum foil if it has no lid) and bake for 3 hours, turning twice, until tender. Uncover the ham to a platter and let sit for a few minutes before carving.
Meanwhile,, set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the contents of the roasting pan into it. use a wooden spoon or pusher to force through as much as possible of the flavorful solids.
Carve the ham and pass the pan sauce in a gravy boat.
Makes 8-10 servings.
From “Zarela’s Veracruz” by Zarela Martinez