Tocino or tosino is a cured meat product popular in former Spanish colonial possessions, including Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Spanish word tocino de pancetaroughly translates to “pork belly.”
In Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and Cuba, tocino is made from pork fatback (not pork belly) and neither cured nor smoked, but just fried until very crunchy and added to recipes, much like lardons in French cuisine.
The meat is sliced into thin strips. Anise wine, annatto, water, salt, sugar, and saltpeter are combined in a container. Each strip is then sprinkled with the mixture and stacked in a separate container, which is covered and kept refrigerated for about three days to cure.
Tocino is traditionally boiled in water (just enough water to cover the meat) or fried in oil, or is cooked over medium heat until the fat is rendered. The original tocino is marinated only with salt, sugar, and saltpeter, although pineapple juice may be added for a slightly tart flavor. Kapampangans who make tocino mix it for 2 to 3 hours in order to achieve the thickness and softness of the meat, then leave it overnight at room temperature before serving it, a dish they call burong babi (fermented pork).
Tocino is often eaten with rice and fried egg in a dish called “Tosilog” or “tocino, sinangag at itlog.”
(adapted from Simply Anne’s.)
3 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
1¼ cups pineapple juice
½ cup ketchup
½ cup lemon-lime soda
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Freeze pork shoulder roast for an hour or so to firm it up so that it’s easier to slice. Cut 1/4-inch slices of pork shoulder and place in a one gallon zipper-lock plastic bag.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients in bowl and then add to the meat. Seal the bag, doing your best to remove excess air. Let the pork cure in the refrigerator for a 4-5 days, flipping over the bag every day or so.
- After curing, you can either cook the meat or portion them off into smaller bags and freeze them.
- To cook the tocino, add a little water, marinade and a few slices of meat to a skillet. Over medium heat, let the liquid boil off and then fry the meat for a couple more minutes to caramelize it. There’s a lot of sugar in the marinade so make sure you don’t burn the meat.
Serve over white rice, and white rice only. Oh yeah, pork fat goodness. If you’re scared that your heart might stop in the process, you can also grill the tocino, which is the “healthier” method, by searing both sides on a grill over high heat and then letting them finish cooking over low or indirect heat. You can replicate this method indoors using a grill pan to sear and a low oven (around 250F) to finish. But if you really want to experience nirvana, you have to go all out and try it pan fried.
Pair it with a cold glass of San Miguel Dark Lager and you are set. Enjoy!