Traditional Guyanese Recipes for Christmas

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Garlic pork comes from the Portuguese culinary tradition. It involves a preparation that seems to fly in the face of food-safety common sense: The meat sits out at room temperature for weeks in a vinegar bath.

No matter how many Butterball turkeys we purchase, or how much eggnog and apple cider we drink, a Guyanese Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without adding the cultural panache of its cuisine.
Once you taste local treats such as pepperpot, black cake, and garlic pork served in some homes, you would agree that there’s nothing that can come close to traditional Guyanese Christmas foods.
Pepperpot is an Amerindian-derived dish. It is a stewed meat dish made with spices, cassareep (a special sauce made from the cassava root) and other basic ingredients, including Caribbean hot peppers. Beef, pork and mutton are the most popular meats used. It is also Guyana’s national dish.
Pepperpot is popularly served with dense, Guyanese-style homemade or home-style bread, although, like most foods, it can be eaten however one chooses — be it with rice, cassava, or cassava bread.
Like the original Amerindian version, pepperpot is usually made in a large pot, and can be reheated and eaten over several days, because the cassareep preserves the meat.
Here is a guide on how to prepare this treasured Guyanese dish, among other traditional Guyanese foods and beverages that are permanent features during the Christmas season. (Recipes adopted from What’s Cooking Guyana)


2 pig trotters or 1 cow heel
2 lb stewing steak or brisket
8 oz pickled meat
2lb ox tail
¼ pt cassareep
2 red peppers
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2oz sugar
Salt to taste

Wipe and clean meat thoroughly;
Put heel or trotters in pan. Cover with water and bring to boil. Skim;
When half tender, add other meats, and hot water to cover. Cook for about 1 hour;
Add other ingredients and simmer until meat is tender. Adjust flavour for salt and sugar;
Serve hot.

Serves Eight.

Note: This dish develops more flavour when left over a period of days. It must be reheated to boiling point each day.

garlic-porkGarlic Pork

3 lbs of pork at least one (1) inch thick; tender cuts are preferred
12 large cloves garlic
½ cup of fresh thyme leaves (stem reserved) or
2 tbsp. of dried Thyme
8-10 wiri-wiri peppers
1 ½ tbsp. sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 cups of white distilled vinegar
2 cups of boiled water (brought to room temp.)
3-4 whole cloves
3 additional cloves of garlic, unpeeled
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Wipe the meat clean with a damp cloth or paper towel;
Using a sharp knife, make little gashes into the meat on both sides. Grind the garlic, thyme, and wiri-wiri peppers in a food processor/mortar and pestle, then pour this seasoning rub in a small bowl;
Using a butter knife or your fingers, spread a generous amount to fill the small gashes in the meat;
Salt and pepper both sides, reserving ½ tsp salt;
Rub any left-over seasoning mixture on meat slices;
Using a wide-mouthed glass jar, start by layering pieces of seasoned meat, stacking until all meat has been placed in the jar;
Combine vinegar and water, and pour cautiously into the jar of layered meat until meat is covered by two inches;
Gently shake the jar to distribute meat evenly, and place thyme stems and cloves in the jar. Add three cloves of unpeeled garlic, as part of the garnish, and the peppercorns.
Place additional sprigs of thyme on top of jar, or slide it down the sides;
Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, and seal jar tightly;
Store in a cool dark place (not refrigerator), and let it rest for 3-5 days;
After curing period, drain meat on a rack, and discard liquid. Do not allow seasoning in the gashes to fall out;
In a skillet, pour 3 tbsp. Canola oil;
Pan-fry on medium heat, until nicely browned for about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and serve with crusty bread and ginger beer, or desired beverage.

fruit-cake-smFruit Cake

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 ½ hours
Servings: 12 slices

½ pound (225 grams) margarine
½ pound (225 grams) dark sugar
4 medium eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla/almond flavouring
1 pound (450 grams) cake and pastry flour
¼ pound (115 grams) breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons (10 ml) mixed spice/nutmeg
1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
3 cups (750 ml) red wine
1 cup (250 ml) rum
3 cups (720 grams) soaked mixed fruits
½ cup (120 grams) cherries
¼ cup (60 grams) peanuts, crushed

Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy;
Gradually beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla/almond flavouring;
Combine flour, breadcrumbs, mixed spice/nutmeg and baking powder and mix well;
Fold flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with the red wine, rum, soaked mixed fruits, cherries and crushed peanuts;
Scrape batter into a greased and lined 325 cm (10-inch) baking tin. Bake for 1½ hours at 180°C/350°F or until a skewer inserted comes out clean;
6. Allow to cool.

black-cake-smBlack Cake

1 lb raisins
1 lb preserved carambola fruit
½ lb currants
½ lb prunes
1 cup brown rum
2 lbs brown sugar
1 lb butter
12 eggs, beaten
1 lb flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spices (nutmeg, cloves, all spice, and cinnamon)
¼ pound mixed peel
¼ pound chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla flavouring

For the cake: Wash and dry fruits; Grind fruits and soak with ¾ cup of rum. Store covered in a glass jar for 2 weeks or longer;
To make caramel: Heat 1 lb of sugar in heavy bottom frying pan until melted. Simmer until dark brown;
Cream butter and 1 lb sugar well, add beaten eggs a little at a time, add soaked fruits and rum and enough caramel to make it as dark as desired;
Add sifted flour with baking powder, mixed spice and vanilla flavouring. Fold in peel and chopped nuts;
Pour mixture in baking pan. Bake in slow oven at 375 for about 1 ½ hours, or until toothpick inserted to test comes out clean;
Drizzle or lightly brush more rum on to finished.

Ssorrelorrel Drink

8 cups sorrel petals
2 ounces grated ginger
12 cups boiling water
Dried orange peel (optional)
Sugar for sweetening to taste

Place sorrel, crushed ginger and dried peel of orange into a pot of boiling water;
Macerate for 12-16 hours;
Strain, sweeten to taste, and bottle;
For preservation, keep in refrigerator. If you wish, add an ounce of white rum to each quart bottle.

ginger_beer-smGinger Beer

1 lb. of ginger
10 cups of water
2 cups of dark brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
5 3 x 3-inch pieces of orange peel
1 4-inch piece of orange peel
Uncooked rice to help with fermentation

Grate ginger with the fine side of the grater;
In a large pot, combine all ingredients, except cinnamon and the (3×3) pieces of orange peel;
Bring to a rapid boil for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain;
Use a cheese cloth to remove ginger bits;
Pour into a large glass jug;
Break orange peel and cinnamon sticks into pieces; add to ginger beer, and bring to room temperature;
Place 12 uncooked rice grains in each glass jar; pour into glass jars and let rest;
Ferment for 5-7 days;
Discard cinnamon sticks and orange peel;
Serve over crushed ice or ice cubes.

[Photo Credits – (Pepperpot); (Black Cake); (Ginger Beer); (Sorrel and Garlic Pork)]

Article Categories:
Columns · Food · Issue 21 · Publication

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