As someone said of Mexican cooking, so also Mexamerican cooking is Aztec cooking plus pigs. The Spaniards brought pigs to the American Southwest after Hernando de Soto landed the first pigs in eastern Florida in 1542. The hog and hominy belt stretches like the chili belt across the southern United States from coast to coast, but different places give different names and different spices to these hog and hominy stews. In the Southwest, posole refers to not only Spanish hominy but also a fine and festive one-dish meal traditional on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when friends gather to thank Christian or corn gods for another year’s survival.
posole is so traditional that nobody agrees on the details of its making. An Anglo friend from Ohio who now lives in Santa Fe insists that no posole is true posole without dried hominy. Tony at San Juan Pueblo insists that the best posole is made with canned hominy. “It’s easier, cleaner, and tenderer,” says Tony. “Anglos always ask for the secret of my hominy,” and the secret is a can opener, a little onion, a little orégano, and lots of bone. Pork bone is what gives this soup-stew its savor, and while some use pig’s feet, Tony adds spare-ribs. “I put a big tomato in it, too, even though that isn’t kosher for Indians because we didn’t start using tomatoes until about sixty-five years ago, when I was young.” The only ingredients that don’t vary are hog, hominy, and chili, the more the better. The longer they simmer together, the better the taste. Best is to make the dish ahead and reheat a couple of days later when the ingredients have met and married.
Heat the lard in a heavy skillet and brown pork banes and boneless pork. Then transfer to a large stewpot or casserole. Sauté onions and garlic in the skillet and add to the meat.
Add remaining ingredients, with cold water or meat stock to cover, bring stew slowly to a boil, and remove any scum. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and chili.
Simmer gently until meat is fork tender, 1½ to 2 hours. Let cool; then remove any excess fat, cut meat off the ribs and pig’s feet, and return meat to the stew before reheating.
© 1986 Betty Fussell. All rights reserved.