Thursday, August 4, 2011

RECIPE - Roast Whole Fresh Ham Brazilian Style (Pernil Assado)

This marvelous recipe for a entire fresh ham, marinaded for 24 hours and slow roasted at low temperature, comes to Flavors of Brazil from a Brazilian food blog called Come-Se (meaning Eat! in English). The blog's author, Neide Rigo, is a well-respected food journalist and authority in São Paulo, and her blog has been around for more than six years. She's a strong advocate for Slow Food Brasil, and is one of the prime moving forces for food security in Brazil.

According to her blog, Neide created this recipe to feed a crowd for a party celebrating her husband's newly-won black belt in karate. She details the various reasons why a fresh ham is the perfect centerpiece for such occasions,

[A fresh ham] is easy to cook, with very few chances of anything going seriously wrong; it has numerous possible variations of the recipe, generally pleases most people, and besides it's economical.

You will have to start to marinade the meat 24 hours before putting it in the oven, so this roast does require some advance planning - it's not a last-minute choice. The whole process starts at the butcher shop where you should ask for an entire fresh ham, bone in, of about 15-16 lbs (15 kgs). Ask the butcher to remove the skin and trim the fat, leaving only a thin layer of fat covering the meat. (If you want to make your own fried pork rinds (torresmo) ask the butcher to wrap up the skin for you.) You might also want to ask the butcher to give you one of the large plastic bags that fresh meat is generally delivered to butcher shops in. They're perfect to use in the marinading process for this recipe.
RECIPE - Roast Whole Fresh Ham Brazilian Style (Pernil Assado)
Serves up to 30 as part of a buffet table

1 whole fresh ham, bone in and skin removed, about 15-16 lbs (7 kgs)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sweet or hot paprika
juice of 2 large limes
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar (balsamic vinegar can be substituted)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
4 bay leaves
Marinading the meat (begin 24 hours before cooking time):
Using a mortar and pestle (or a small mixing bowl with wooden spoon) crush the garlic cloves together with the salt. Add the paprika, the spices and lime juice, and crush to make a thick paste. Add the vinegar, wine and water and mix thorough to create the marinade.

Using a carving fork, perforate the ham with holes on all sides to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat. Place the ham in a large plastic butcher's bag or Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over. Remove excess air from the bag and then seal it so that the entire surface of the meat is in contact with the marinade. Refrigerate for 24 hours in the refrigerator, turning over once or twice during this time.

About 8 hours before desired serving time, remove the meat from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C) and about 7 1/4 hours before serving time, put the meat in a large roasting pan, pour the marinade over and place in the oven. Roast for 7 hours, checking from time to time to make sure the liquid doesn't dry out. If it starts to dry out add additional water or wine. Remove from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Can be served immediately, or can be cooled to room temperature before carving and serving.


  1. Is it possible to roast a smaller sized pernil for less time? I can't find a 15kg pernil easily in the US. Obrigada. :) April

  2. Hi - I've roasted smaller pernils before, and always for a much shorter time than the one indicated in this recipe. Still cook it at the low temperature though, and plan on cooking for about one hour for each kg. (2.2 lbs) of meat.
    The best way to be sure that you've cooked it enough is to use a meat thermometer to check. The pernil is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. The temperature will rise about 5 degrees more while the roast stands.