I describe my recipe for the “Best Adobo” I have ever cooked in this previous post. However, I still get lots of emails about how to do it… So here is a visual step by step guide, just refer to the original recipe for measurements again if you are still unsure after reading this version. There is a slight twist in this batch in that I found young garlic in the markets, and used it to great success… This is a 3.5 hour process, so if you want instant, don’t even read this post. This is the ultimate in slow cooking…
Start off by placing roughly 2-3 cups of fatback at the base of your large palayok. This will melt as the pot heats up, providing a pool of lard that eggs on the rest of the fat to melt gently.
If you find young garlic bulbs in the market, snap them up, clean them and just shave the roots off, so that the bulbs remain whole while cooking. These have a mild garlic flavor, that turn fabulously sweet when cooked for a long time.
Add some whole garlic cloves, young garlic over the fatback and place about 1 kilo’s worth of cubed fatty pork liempo.
Add some of the 1/3 cup total of rock salt or slightly less kosher salt on top of the pork, some of the whole peppercorns, fresh and dried bay leaves and more whole baby garlic before another layer of pork.
The third layer should bring you close to the top of the palayok. If it’s still roomy, scale up your recipe and try four kilos next time.
Pour in a cup of good coconut or sugar cane vinegar and I sometimes add 1/3 cup of water to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pot.
Place your palayok over a raging wood fire until the liquids inside start to boil and the acid of the vinegar burns off. Lower the fire after a few minutes of boiling so that the pot merely gurgles along. You may cover it now. For the next 2.5-3 hours, you merely have to visit it to tend the fire and ensure a relatively steady low flame.
After a couple of hours, something absolutely magical happens as the liquids evaporate, the adobo absorbs the smell of a wood fire, the clay pot draws out moisture and the flavors meld like no other. Watch that the adobo isn’t completely drying out, and you may add a little water along the way if necessary. The color will also change to a very light golden brown. When the meat is meltingly soft, it is ready. I find it takes roughly 165-200 minutes in total cooking time. Serve hot with lots of rice and acharra on the side. Or let the adobo cool, store it in a large garapon or jar and fry it up a few days later. This is how adobo was meant to be. :)
And to the numerous indignant readers who have emailed me, YES, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SOY SAUCE in this recipe. Try it first before you knock it. You CANNOT possibly know with certainty that the only way to make adobo is with soy sauce. Your great grand parents are probably shaking their heads in the heavens at your rash judgments on this dish that has probably existed in some form or another for 600+ years on the Philippine archipelago. For 530 years or so, without soy sauce. And if my polls are to be believed, some 20% of the readers still make their adobos without soy sauce… :)