All the states in the Yucatan peninsula share common Mayan roots, so it is not surprising that their cuisines also share many traditional dishes, such as it is the case of Makum, a stew that is made with marinated meat, traditionally tightly wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a clay pot for long times. The name is a direct adoption from the Mayan words mak – cover, and kum – pot, “covered pot”. In the state of Yucatan, the most elementary ingredients for makum are fish and annatto sauce, but in the neighbouring state of Quintana Roo, a unique regional version is prepared with pork and cabbage. To simplify the method, I used, in lieu of clay, a stainless-steel wide pot with lid. Many modern cooks also skip the banana leaves; I used the outer leaves of the cabbage as a wrap, instead. Finally, placing a heavy object on the pot’s lid during cooking helped to compensate for a weak seal. Otherwise, I tried to preserve the recipe as faithfully as possible.
Quintana Roo Style Pork and Cabbage – Makum de repollo
1 ½ lb (680g) boneless pork meat, such as loin or shoulder; excess fat removed, sliced into chunks
1 small cabbage (there might be some leftover for another use)
2 tomatoes; washed
½ white onion; peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry Mexican oregano, or ½ tsp dry marjoram
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt, plus more, to taste
2 cloves garlic; peeled and minced
6 tbsp sour orange juice, or ¼ cup orange juice plus 2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice; preferably freshly squeezed
Place cumin, oregano (or marjoram), salt, black pepper, allspice and minced garlic in a non-reactive, shallow dish:
Add lime juice:
Pour in sour orange juice (or mix), and stir to form a marinade:
Arrange meat in the container, in a single layer:
Flip and stir meat, to coat on all sides, then cover container:
Place container in the fridge, and allow meat to marinate for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare veggies. Carefully remove six to eight of the outer leaves of the cabbage; wash, dry, remove hard part with a sharp knife, and reserve. Slice cabbage in half and remove hard core from each half (photo below, left). Slice cabbage, traditionally thinly, or as in my case, for a firmer final texture, into strips about half an inch (1.25 cm) wide. Place sliced cabbage in a bowl, fill with water and add some vinegar, to disinfect (photo below, right):
Allow sliced cabbage to sit in the bowl for twenty minutes, then transfer to a colander to drain most of the vinegary water. Reserve.
Remove stem spot from tomatoes, cut in half and slice; remove ends from onion half, then slice thinly:
Place a wide, large pot on the stove, and pour one cup of water in (photo below, left). Arrange half of the reserved cabbage leaves as a bed at the bottom of the pot (photo below, right):
Place half of the marinated meat in a single layer, on top of the leaves (photo below, left). Top meat with half the onion and tomato slices, and season with salt, to taste (photo below, right):
Top with some sliced cabbage, then start layers again, with the rest of the meat, onions and tomatoes:
Pour any liquid left from the marinade over all the ingredients in the pot (photo below, left). Add another layer of cabbage (there might be some sliced cabbage leftover for another use). Place the rest of the cabbage leaves on top of everything, as a wrap, tucking in around the edge of the pot (photo below, right):
Cover pot with lid, then place a heavy object on top, to improve the seal; I used my molcajete – Mexican stone mortar (photo below, left). Turn on the stove to high heat for five minutes, then reduce to medium. Cook for one hour, then open to check doneness, by piercing a piece of meat with a fork, or tongs; it should fall apart easily. If the meat does not fall apart, then place leaves back, close pot, and check every thirty minutes, until meat is tender. Depending on the size of the meat chunks, it could take from one, to up to two hours; my makum was ready after one and a half hours (photo below, right):
To serve, place a portion including meat, cabbage, tomatoes and onions in a bowl, then add some broth:
This was just a great dish, pure comfort food on a rainy day, or an early-fall evening. All the flavours became melded into a perfect balance of sensations: tang from the sour juices, sweetness from the cooked cabbage, umami from the meat and tomatoes, and effervescent notes from the herbs, aromatics, and spices.
Although makum is traditionally cooked in a clay pot, and I might have felt slightly tremulous about substitutions, I really liked how my large wide stainless-steel pot performed in this dish. It is a very versatile shape, being about 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter, and relatively shallow, with 3.2 inches (8 cm) in depth. Mine is a Cuisinart™, but there are other options online.
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #559, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.