MIAMI (CBS4) – As families settle in for Christmas Eve dinners, some will be eating a little later Monday night.
That’s because preparing the traditional “Noche Buena” roasted pig takes hours, sometimes an entire day.
At one Southwest Miami-Dade home, the preps began on December 23rd, when Carlos Pastrana and his son Alex Robinson first picked the pig from the slaughterhouse.
“We always cook female pig,” Pastrana said. “We don’t like male pigs. They say the meat is tender, and we like it that way.”
Once the pig is brought home, it’s time to season it with a mix of garlic, cumin, sour orange juice, salt, pepper and other spices.
“We put it in the marinade yesterday,” Pastrana told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana, his daughter-in-law. “Then we leave it all night. Then we put it in the box around 2:30pm to have it ready by about 9 o’clock.”
It’s a late night, but definitely worth the wait.
The finished product is called “lechon asado”, and it’s a favorite among Cubans and Puerto Ricans in South Florida.
Pastrana has been roasting pigs for the holidays more than 20 years, and he’s picked up some friendly competition along the way.
“We keep doing it. Since my son was like 9 years old. And then he started doing it with me, Pastrana said. “He got better than me.”
While the men tend to the pork, black beans are on the stove and bread is in the oven.
And for dessert, two favorites are already on the table– flan, a type of egg custard, and turrones, an assortment of nougat treats.
The “Caja China” is a popular brand of box for roasting the pig.
It can be purchased or fashioned out of concrete blocks and steel mesh.
Some families dig a pit, dump in charcoal, and roast the pig on a spit.
No matter how you do it, the end result is always mouthwatering.
“Let’s just say every year it turns out to be the best pork we ever had,” Rosy Pastrana said.
Noche Buena literally translates to “Good Night”. And when surrounded by family, friends and food, how can it not be?
“Family is optimal. No matter what happens in life, that’s what’s going to keep us together,” Rosy Pastrana explained. “Tradition puts an extra touch to it.”
Typical Noche Buena celebrations last well in to the night. Some families exchange gifts at midnight while other might attend a church service.
Time is spent eating, socializing, and reflecting on a year of blessings and the true reason for Christmas.