Christmas to Carnival - Guyana
So how do Guyanese celebrate Christmas? With Foods like Pepperpot & Garlic Pork!
Guyanese Christmas Gives A Whole New Meaning To Slow Food
Updated December 24, 201410:00 AM ET
There are some Christmas foods you make far in advance that just get better and better with age and anticipation. Like British fruitcakes that age into their boozy ripeness, and German gingerbread cookies called lebkuchen that get softer and spicier as they mature.
In Guyana, a small South American country wedged between Venezuela and Suriname, certain Christmas foods are also prepared weeks in advance, and aged at room temperature. But they're not sweet; they're meaty, and they sit out for weeks. Although it may sound a bit suspect, these dishes — called pepperpot and garlic pork — have been eaten safely for generations. And Guyanese say it wouldn't be Christmas without them.
Pepperpot, the first course served on Christmas Day, comes from the native tradition. It's basically a stew of aromatics and tough beef parts like shanks, trotters and tails that benefit from a long cooking. They're tossed in with cinnamon and cloves from neighboring Spice Islands and peppers. And when we say slow cooking, we mean it: Pepperpot is cooked, off and on, for days. And between stewing, it sits out on the stove at room temperature.
Usually, leaving meat at room temperature would give bacteria — the sort that would land you in the hospital — a field day. But pepperpot has a secret weapon: cassareep.
Cassareep is a thick sauce made from the juice from cassava root, one of the country's oldest traditional foods. The juice is boiled down to a molasses-dark syrup, which has powerful antiseptic properties that's used in medicine as well. And it also contributes its own unique flavor.
Pepperpot, a traditional Guyanese Christmas dish, is basically a stew of aromatics and tough meat parts like shanks, trotters and tails that benefit from a long cooking.
Courtesy of Cynthia Nelson Photography
The second essential Guyanese Christmas dish, garlic pork, comes from the Portuguese culinary tradition. As with pepperpot, it involves a preparation that seems to fly in the face of food-safety common sense: The pork sits out at room temperature for weeks. In this case, it's not cassareep that keeps you safe: It's salt and vinegar.
This puckery preservation method is similar to Portuguese adobo recipes, and the vindaloo dishes in the former Portuguese colony of Goa. In this case, chops are rubbed with a paste of garlic and a Guyanese varietal of fresh thyme.
Garlic pork comes from the Portuguese culinary tradition. It involves a preparation that seems to fly in the face of food-safety common sense: The meat sits out at room temperature for weeks in a vinegar bath. Courtesy of Cynthia Nelson Photography
After at least two weeks in the brine, the meat is fried. The long bath (and a heating of vinegar) creates some pretty distinct flavors and aromas. "It's a very intense dish," says Nelson. "And you always know whether or not your neighbor made garlic pork."
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