In our humble opinion, there is a serious and shameful lack of sodas made with real sugar available in America today. When we were in Argentina last year, among the most (of many) pleasurable experiences was drinking a Coke out of a small bottle and having it taste like it used to. The fact that soda companies in America are now releasing “special” and “old school” editions that contain sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup just lampoons this ridiculous situation.
Now, we’re not exactly giant soda drinkers, and when we do indulge, we tend to go for things like San Pellegrino’s limoncita, except of course when we’re enjoying Mexican tortas (sandwiches) for lunch at the Mexican-run deli on our Brooklyn block. Then, we will always get a nice cool bottle of Jarritos, and most commonly, the flavor is pineapple (piña). Imagine our delight then, when we were recently invited to sample all 11 varieties of Jarritos.
Since 1950, Jarritos (meaning “little jars/jugs”) have been making a bevy of sodas that are as varied in flavor as they are brightly colored. Less carbonated than typical American sodas, and due to their containing actual sugar, they can taste a little over sweet and syrupy to the modern American palate. It’s a sweetness I happen to enjoy, and so I’m delighted that Jarritos is now challenging the US soda behemoths and selling their drinks over here too. And, to further sweeten the pill, as it were, Jarritos are, for a limited time, holding the JarritosNation! contest, in which you can gather points from each bottle of Jarritos soda to win digital cameras or a trip to Hawaii, which is strange given that Jarritos is made in Jalisco, Mexico.
Of course, slurping one down with a chorizo, ham and guacamole torta is one thing, but cooking something imaginative with a highly flavored and sugary soda is another thing entirely. In all honesty, we didn’t make a giant mental leap in using pineapple flavored Jarritos to make tacos al pastor given the pineapple that is central to that preparation. However, it was fantastically delicious!
It’s thought that tacos al pastor are a fairly recent invention in Mexican cuisine, and are a fusion of traditional Lebanese shwarma-type lamb kebab preparations (hence al pastor, meaning shepherd’s style) that the Mexicans changed to suit their taste for slow-cooked pork marinated in vinegar with a smoky pepper sauce. In Mexico, it’s usually found in specific tacos al pastor stands where fat elephant legs of juicy, spicy, sweet pork are shaved off and slapped between a couple of corn tortillas and served very simply with a zesty avocado salsa and a couple of chunks of pineapple.
Pineapple, both sliced and in juice form, is used in the marinade and the cooking sauce for tacos al pastor, and we decided to substitute it in the former with Jarritos piña in order to add some sweetness and pineapple flavor to the acidity of the vinegar that is used to tenderize the pork. It was not clear whether this necessarily added a huge amount of pineapple flavor to the pork at this stage because we subsequently baked it in a roasted guajillo, ancho and pasilla puree liberally studded with slices of pineapple for an hour and a half until it was fall apart tender, but I like to think it played its role in what is, however you make it, a dish made up of many layers of flavor.
(adapted from recipe found on Mexicanfoodandmore.com)
- 2lbs pork shoulder or butt meat, cut into 2 inch lumps
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 bottle Jarritos Piña
- 5 dried guajillo chile peppers
- 5 dried pasilla chile pepper
- 2 dried ancho chile pepper
- 1 medium tomato, toasted, peeled and seeds removed
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 head of garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 5 cloves
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- Salt to taste
- 12-16 small corn tortillas
- limes wedges
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- Marinate the pork in the vinegar and Jarritos piña soda for about 2 hours.
- Remove and drain.
- Meanwhile, rehydrate the guajillo, pasilla, and ancho chilies in about 3 cups of hot water until soft and redder.
- Remove the veins and seeds.
- Combine the chilies, tomato, half the onion, garlic, cumin and cloves and blend until smooth. Add the pineapple juice and salt to taste. — Heat oven to 350F (190C) and in line the bottom of a 9 inch (20cm) baking pan with pineapple slices, arrange pork pieces in one or more layers on top of this. Then, add a second layer of pineapple rings and pour pepper sauce overtop. Cover baking pan tightly with foil, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove pan from oven, and with tongs, remove pineapple and pork from sauce before transferring sauce into a sautee pan.
- Reduce sauce by about 1/3 or until viscous and quite thick.
- Serve with warm corn tortillas, salsa de aguacate (spicy avocado sauce) and Jarritos soda, or beer if you prefer.