February 28, 2012 by
Pozole, a word of Pre-Hispanic origin meaning “froth”, is a stew-like dish prepared with grains of a special corn called cacahuazintle (a very large kernel corn with a tough skin originally grown in Mexico) pre-cooked in a weak lye-water solution, making the corn grains lose their tough, fibrous outer layer so that they open like flowers when boiled, giving them the appearance of froth (what we now call hominy). This corn is added to a broth with shredded chicken or pork. When serving, the usual condiments are chopped onion, limes, dried oregano, avocado, shredded cabbage, and tortillas.
Different states of Mexico have made pozole their own. People in the State of Guerrero add tomatillos, Michoacán residents add pork rinds, Colima residents enjoy it with queso fresco (white cheese), and in coastal areas it is common to add sardines and other small fish. The best known recipe, however, is from Jalisco, prepared with pork and dried poblano peppers.
Posole is usually served at celebrations, like birthdays, Dia de los Muretos (Day of the Dead), and Christmas. The Aztecs, however, had their own recipe for posole. During the celebrations in honor of god Xipe (the God of Agriculture and the Seasons), Emperor Moctezuma was served a huge pozole dish, crowned with the thigh of a sacrificed prisoner. In fact, the earliest history of posole states that the broth & hominy were cooked with the flesh of sacrificed prisoners. When cannibalism was outlawed, chicken and pork took the place of people.
Now, for the recipe.
The style posole I make is the Jalisco style. I haven’t tried any of the other variations, but I’d bet the Michoacán style, with the pork rinds, is amazing.
A quick note, I include quantities for both whole chiles as well as the powdered equivalents. I made this recipe with the powders. They are both equally good, but I find making the recipe with the powders easier and quicker. However, it is up to you.
The spices, a closer look. Clockwise from top: Black Pepper, Salt, Cumin, Ancho Chile Powder, Pasilla Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano, Chipotle Chile Powder
3 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 2″ pieces, or, country-style ribs (be sure to keep any bone)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 ea. whole Ancho chiles, or, 2 tbsp. Ancho chile powder
2 ea. whole Guajillo or Pasilla chiles, or, 1 tbsp. ground Guajillo or Pasilla chile powder (NOTE: Guajillo chile powder is usually sold as “ground chile pepper”)
1 ea. whole Chipotle chile, or, 1/2 tsp. ground Chipotle chile powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 med. white onions, diced
2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans hominy, drained
Condiments: lime wedges, shredded green cabbage, dried Mexican oregano, minced onion, corn tortillas
The Condiments: Corn Tortillas, Lime Wedges, Onion, Dried Mexican Oregano, Shredded Cabbage
1. Prepare the chiles: (If you have clean latex gloves, now is the time to use them.) Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Place them in a small bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Weigh down the chiles (a small plate will be sufficient) and let them soak for about 30 minutes. Remove the chiles from the soaking liquid and place them in a blender with just enough of the soaking liquid, if needed, to make a smooth puree. Set aside.
*If you are using the chile powders instead, skip Step 1.
2. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the pork, in batches. You just want to sear , not cook the pork all the way through. Remove the pork from the heat and set aside. If you have any bones, sear them as well.
Searing the pork
3. Add the onion and garlic to the stockpot and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. The moisture from the onions will help to release all those browned goodies stuck to the bottom of the pan after the meat has been browned.
Browning the onions and garlic. Note the clean pan bottom.
Add the chile puree or chile powders and the other spices. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure not to burn the spices.
The onions and garlic with the spices.
4. Add the pork and any bones you may have seared back into the stockpot. Add just enough water or broth to cover the meat. Cover and bring the liquid to a boil. Partially uncover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. (The bones will add a lot of flavor to the broth.)
The pork added back to the pot and mixed with the onions, garlic, and the spices.
After adding the chicken broth.
5. After the first hour of cooking, add the hominy. Uncover the stockpot completely and continue cooing until the meat is tender, about another 30 – 45 minutes. (Be sure to test the meat for tenderness about every 15 minutes after the first hour. You want the meat to be fork tender and easy to shred. Even though you’re essentially braising the pork, it can dry if you overcook it.)
Adding the hominy after the first hour of cooking. Note the change in color of the broth.
Remove the meat from the broth and set it aside until cool enough to handle. Discard the bones, if you have any. Either chop or shred the meat and add it back to the broth. Taste for seasoning.
The shredded pork.
The finished posole. The hominy helps to thicken the broth.
6. Serve the posole with corn tortillas. Pass around the garnishes and let everyone serve themselves.