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A portrait of a pastel open to reveal the pork filling on a white plate along with arroz con gandules and potato salad.
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Authentic Puerto Rican Pasteles

Spread out the individual components over a few days to make the prep easier.
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Puerto Rican/Hispanic
Keyword pasteles, pork
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Marinating the Meat and Assembling the Pasteles 5 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings 19
Calories 374kcal

Equipment

  • 14-cup food processor, blender, or box grater
  • butcher's twine
  • vegetable peeler
  • parchment paper

Ingredients

For the Pork Filling- Can Be Made One Day Ahead

  • 3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (see note section for meat replacements)
  • 1 cup sofrito separated
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sazón
  • 3 teaspoons adobo plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion cut in half, separated
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 10 olives sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 large bay leaves

For the Caldo de Jamón (or Ham Broth)- Can be Made 3 Days Ahead

  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 2 bay leaves

For the Masa de Guineo (Green Banana Paste)- Can Be Made One Day Ahead

  • 12 guineos verdes (green cooking bananas)
  • 2 pounds yautía (malanga)
  • 1 pound calabaza (Kabocha squash)
  • 1 large batata (boniato) or Russet potato
  • 1/4-1/2 cup achiote oil plus more for oiling the banana leaves
  • 1/2-3/4 cup ham broth
  • adobo to taste

To Assemble the Pasteles

  • 19 prepared (or frozen) banana leaves see body of post for preparing the banana leaves
  • 3/4 cup achiote oil
  • 1 batch masa de guineo
  • 1 batch pork filling
  • 1 cup (38) manzanilla olives optional
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper sliced, optional

Instructions

Marinate the Pork (may be done up to 3 days ahead)

  • Use a boning knife to remove the bone from the pork shoulder. Set the bone aside to use later for making the ham stock.
    Next, use a chef's knife to remove the fat cap from the meat. Dice the fat and set it aside (or refrigerate it with bone). This will be rendered to create the stewed pork filling.
    Dice the pork shoulder into small chunks: in squares about 1/2" big.
  • In a non-reactive mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sofrito, the white wine vinegar, olive oil, sazónadobooregano, and black pepper.
    Slice the onion in half. Grate one half of the onion into the bowl with the spices and vinegar. Reserve the other half to use in cooking the pork. Add the garlic to the bowl.
    Mix the marinade with a whisk until smooth. 
  • Add the diced meat to the bowl and toss it in the marinade to coat it thoroughly.
    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the meat to marinate for 4-12 hours in the refrigerator. 

Make the Caldo de Jamón or Ham Broth (can be done 1 week ahead)

  • To a small stock pot, add the reserved pork bone and the remaining half of the onion.
    Place the peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves into the center of a cheesecloth square. Bring the four corners of the square to the center. Tie a 4" piece of butcher's twine around the top of the bundle to secure it.
  • Tie one end of the string to the handle of the stock pot and put the spice bundle into the pot with the bone and the onion.
    Fill the pot with just enough cold water to cover the bone. Bring the water in the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Don't stir the broth as it boils.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the broth to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
    The broth will develop a gray, foamy scum on its surface. Use a wide spoon to skim the scum from the surface then discard it.
    Continue simmering the broth until the 15 minutes. Once the broth is done, leave it to cool on the stove for ten minutes. 
  • Once the broth has cooled slightly, use a ladle to pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into mason jars.
    Cover and store the broth in the refrigerator or use it right away.

Cook the Pork Filling (can be done 1 day ahead)

  • About an hour before you plan to assemble your pasteles, cook the pork filling.
    Heat a caldero over medium-low heat. Add the reserved pork fat to the caldero and let it slowly heat up along with the pot to render it.
    Once 2 tablespoons of oil have cooked off of the fat, remove the fat pieces with a slotted spoon (you can also just leave it in the pot). 
  • Increase the stove's temperature to medium-high heat.
    Add the remaining sofrito to the pot with the rendered fat and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. 
    Next, add the marinated pork to the pot and brown it over medium-heat heat for 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, sliced olives, capers, and bay leaves.
    Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce the temperature to low. Cover the pot and allow the meat to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.
  • Once tender, the pork filling can be used right away or refrigerated for up to 2 days in a covered container.

Prepare the Root Vegetables for the Masa de Guineos (can be done 1 day ahead)

  • Fill a large bowl with 6 cups of hot tap water. Stir in 1/4 cup of salt into the water.
    Use a chef's knife to cut off both ends of the bananas. Take the tip of your knife and make a slit down the back and front of each banana.
    Place the bananas into the salted water and leave the peel to soften while you prep the remaining root vegetables.
  • Remove the tough rind from the calabaza. Cut the calabaza into 2-inch chunks and throw them into the bowl of saltwater with the bananas.
    Use a vegetable peeler to peel the yautía. Cut it in fourths, lengthwise. Add it to the bowl with the calabaza.
    Peel the batata and cut it in quarters lengthwise, as well. Add it to the bowl of saltwater.
    The peels of the bananas should be soft enough to remove by now. Peel each and return them to the bowl of water.

Make the Masa

  • Set up your food processor with the grater blade. Turn the machine on and add the bananas and root veggies you have soaking in the saltwater to shred them.
  • Remove the grating blade and replace it with the processing blade.
    Add 1/4 of the shredded veggie mix to the food processor bowl. Puree the mix for 1-2 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl.
  • Puree the mix for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the masa resembles peanut butter.
    Scoop the masa out of the bowl and into a separate mixing bowl. Continue pureeing the remaining veggies in batches the same way.
  • After pureeing the masa, use a large spoon to combine. The masa should be smooth- free of lumps- thick, and almost spongy.
    Add 1/4-1/2 cup of achiote oil to the masa in the bowl. The more oil you add, the more orange, and looser, your masa will be.
    Add 1/2 cup-1 cup of the ham broth to the masa to make it smoother.

Assemble the Test Pastel

  • Cut the banana leaves into rectangles that measure 7 1/2-inches by 6-inches. 
    Gather the rest of the components to make the pasteles: the pork filling, masa, any add-ins (red pepper slices and olives), and the achiote oil.
    You also need a pair of scissors, sheets of parchment paper, and butcher's twine cut in strings 40-inches long.
  • Lay a banana leaf in the center of a parchment rectangle. Spread a tablespoon of the achiote oil onto banana leaf.
    Take a large spoonful, or 1/2-cup, of the masa and spread it on the leaf in an oval that leaves a 1-inch margin of banana leaf showing.
  • Top the masa with a 1/4 cup of the pork filling, followed by tablespoon of the broth from the pork filling
    Top the meat with two strips of red pepper and two olives.
  • Bring the two long edges of the paper rectangle up to meet each other over the pastel. Once the edges are lined up, fold the paper over one inch. Now, fold the parchment over in half to form a band that's almost as wide as the pastel.
    Fold one-inch of paper on the short end of the bundle towards the pastel. Now, fold the "tail" or unfilled end of paper towards the center of the bundle. It should reach the center of the pastel. Repeat on the opposite side. 

Test the Pastel for Seasonings Before Wrapping the Remaining Pasteles

  • Tie the pastel with a piece of twine in a cross pattern to keep the paper from opening in the pot.
    Next, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil. Once the water's boiling, add your test pastel to the pot and boil it for 30-35 minutes.
    After cooking, remove it from the pot and unwrap it. Taste the pastel to see if it needs more adobo or salt. Adjust the seasoning in the masa to taste.
    Continue to assemble and wrap the pasteles.
  • Once all of the pasteles have been assembled and wrapped, tie them in bundles of two.
    Stack two pasteles with the folded ends touching each other. Grab a length of twine. Hold the string's loop in one hand and two loose ends in the other.
    Slide the string under the stacked pasteles, making sure the bundle's short end sits right in the middle of the two strings. 
  • Bring the three fingers of the hand with the looped end up. Go through the loop with those fingers and grab the two strings in the other hand. 
    Pull the two loose ends through the loop and towards the sides of the bundle. 
    Flip the bundle over and bring the string's edges under the two strands on the backside (formed earlier by the loop).
    Tie the two loose ends in a knot. Continue tying until all of the bundles are secure.

Freeze, then Cook

  • Refrigerate the pasteles after assembling and wrapping them. Pack them in a food gallon-size freezer storage bag in docenas (or bundles of 6) to make a dozen pasteles per bag.
    Freeze the pasteles for 6-8 months. 
  • Cook the pasteles straight from the freezer: bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a 1/4-cup of salt to the water and allow it a few seconds to dissolve. 
    Slide the bundles of frozen pasteles into the boiling water and boil them for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.
    If you're boiling fresh, unfrozen pasteles, you only need to cook them for 30-40 minutes. 
  • Once the pasteles are cooked, lift them from the pot using a kitchen fork or tongs and set them in a colander set inside the sink to drain a bit. Cut the strings off of the bundles.
    Cut both ends of the paper off before unwrapping the pastel and sliding it from the banana leaf onto a plate.
  • Serve your Pasteles on their own, with Pernil, Arroz con Gandules, and potato salad, or with a side salad. 

Notes

Meat Filling Alternatives:

  • Chicken and Turkey: buy bone-in chicken thighs. Remove the bone and skin just as you did with the shoulder. Prepare the meat and cook as instructed. Reduce the simmering time to 15 minutes. 
  • Shrimp, Crab, Conch, or Lobster: remove any shells and dice the meat. Reduce the simmering time to 10 minutes. 
  • Tofu or Lentils: Cook as instructed. Simmer for 15 minutes. 

To Freeze the Cooked Pork Filling:

  1. Allow the meat to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container or storage bag.
  2. Freeze the pork for up to 2 months.
  3. Thaw the meat a day in advance and use it as instructed. 

Tips for the Ham Broth:

  • The broth can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
  • To make a stronger ham broth, add 1-2 teaspoons of ham bouillon to the stock towards the end of the simmering time.
  • The ham bone can be replaced with chicken or turkey bones or seafood shells. 

Notes on the Masa:

  • The masa can be made a day in advance and refrigerated in a sealed container. Don't store it in the fridge for more than 24 hours or the masa will start to brown.
  • Milk may be added, instead of broth, to soften the masa. Just add 1/4-1/2 cup of whole milk. 
  • If you can't find green bananas, ask your grocer to order a case of ungassed bananas. If you still have no luck, use 9 green plantains and 3 large potatoes in place of the green bananas.
  • Freeze the masa for 6 months: prepare as instructed, then transfer the masa to a freezer storage bag.
    Once you're ready to make your pasteles, thaw it completely in the refrigerator. Hang the masa in nut bag or cheesecloth bag for one hour to remove excess water that may have accumulated during freezing. 

Storage Instructions:

Store leftover pasteles in a food storage container in the fridge for no more than 24 hours. Day-old, cooked pasteles become gummy and hard when reheated.
Reheat the
pasteles in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel. 

Nutrition

Calories: 374kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 416mg | Potassium: 1184mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 4255IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg