Chances are you haven't seen or heard of Pepino Silvestre & Cerdo (West Indian Gherkin & Pork) before, but I don't want it to disappear as many of our grandmas' traditions.
Not long ago I arrived from my trip to a sleepy little village in the mountains by the border. From that trip to Capotillo, I came back home with a handful of Pepino Silvestre, sweet memories of my childhood, and a recipe.
If you have never heard about it, allow me to introduce Cucumis Anguria, better known in the DR as pepino silvestre, an obscure and poorly appreciated vegetable.
As its Spanish names suggests (wild gherkin), this vegetable grows in the wild, especially in areas of low precipitation. It is known in English as West Indies gherkin, and in other Spanish-speaking countries as badunga and cohombro. This resilient vine yields fruits about 4 to 8 cm in length.
In the DR it isn’t grown on a large scale and is almost never found through chain supermarkets. These bunch I bought at the farmers’ market in Dajabón.
I remember this obscure and humble dish from my grandma’s kitchen. This vegetable tastes a lot like regular cucumber, but it does not lend itself to be eaten raw. The mild flavor and interesting texture are best combined with the strong flavors of the braised pork.
Pepino Silvestre and Cerdo (West Indian Gherkin and Pork)
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of boneless pork (shoulder or belly), cut into small pieces
- A pinch of oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of oil (canola, corn or peanut)
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of West Indian gherkin (pepinos silvestres), clean of seeds and cut into quarters
- 1 cubanela (cubanelle) pepper (or bell), cut into small pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic , crushed
- 1 red onion , cut into strips
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons of minced cilantro
- Season the meat with orégano, a pinch of pepper and a teaspoon of salt.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep-bottom pot.
- Add the meat and brown (careful with splatters of hot oil).
- Add half a cup of water and cover.
- Cook until the water has evaporated (be careful you don’t let the meat burn).
- Brown again and add another half a cup of water.
- Repeat the two previous steps for 15 minutes.
- Add the gherkins and a cup of water.
- Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until the gherkins are cooked through (you should taste them).
- Let the liquid evaporate and add peppers, garlic, and onion. Stir and cover. Simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce and a cup of water. Mix well and simmer until it breaks the boil.
- Season with salt to taste. Add the cilantro, stir and remove from the heat.
- Serve with moro.