Pernil de Cerdo

Fresh Leg of Pork


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • 20 to 25


Appears in

Secrets of Colombian Cooking

Secrets of Colombian Cooking

By Patricia McCausland-Gallo

Published 2004

  • About

Another very festive dish, this is a delicious recipe prepared throughout the country for the Christmas season. Sometimes even prepared with Coca-Cola, the traditional way is to prepare it with the bone in and to leave the top layer of skin and fat on the leg. It is beautifully cooked to a golden brownish-red, with crisscross-cut skin that is crispy and delicious, and with tender meat inside. In my house we prepare both turkey and pork on Christmas Eve; Hayacas are served the next morning. Then for lunch on Christmas Day, my sister Sylvia, who is a great cook, prepares a large outdoor barbecue with Chorizos, Morcillas, Butifarras, beef, and corn on the cob.


  • 1 fresh ham or leg of pork (about 12 pounds)
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup minced cilantro
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger


  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • cups brown sugar or panela*
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons pepper


  • Pan drippings Flour


  1. Buy the whole leg of pork with the bone, fat, and skin included. Ask your butcher to make crisscross cuts, 1 inch apart, on the skin.
  2. Place the pork in a large nonreactive container; add the orange juice, onion, mustard, cilantro, parsley, lime juice, garlic, thyme, Worcestershire, 4 teaspoons of the salt, bay leaves, pepper, and ginger, and rub all over the leg. Refrigerate covered until the next day.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Rub with the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. If you bought the pork already boned, tie it with twine to hold it together while cooking. (A leg with the bone will hold together on its own.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the leg on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour the leftover seasoning juices in the bottom of the pan together with 1 cup of water.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes per pound, about 4 hours.
  6. While the meat is cooking, PREPARE THE GLAZE: in a small, heavy pot, mix the mustard, sugar, thyme, orange peel, cloves, ginger, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Set aside until needed.
  7. Remove foil from the meat, brush all over with the glaze and cook uncovered 10 minutes more per pound, about 2 hours. When you add the glaze, check that the water on the bottom of the pan has not evaporated; keep checking and adding more if needed.
  8. Remove the leg when the internal temperature is 160 to 180°F. Let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  9. TO PREPARE THE SAUCE, remove fat from pan drippings. Measure the remaining juices into a small pot and add teaspoons of flour per cup of liquid. Stir well and cook until thickened.
  10. Serve and enjoy!