Saturday, March 12, 2011

Puerto Rican Kitchen Essentials

If you go into the kitchen of a Puerto Rican person whether they live in San Juan, New York, Chicago or Florida, there are 10 items you will find in every one of those kitchens. You can't cook Puerto Rican food for Puerto Rican Recipes if you don't have these items.

These are the essential items in any Puerto Rican Kitchen

  • Pilon
  • Tostonera
  • Caldero
  • Cafetera
  • Colador
  • Sazon
  • Adobo
  • Sofrito
  • Recaito

Pilon – Puerto Rican version of a mortar and pestel. Preferably made of wood, this is a large hollowed out bowl on a stand with a small, rounded wooden instrument used to grind, mash or pulverize ingredients and seasonings such as garlic or dried oregano to use for flavoring meats or other items being prepared for cooking. Can also be used to mix your own version of adobo and other seasoning needed for Puerto Rican Recipes.


Tostonera – these come in various sizes and shapes. The most common tostonera is 2 pieces of flat wood screwed together with hinges. One should have a rounded out impression for making right sized Tostoneras. This kitchen essential item is used to smash down fried green banana portions to be fried a second time. Other variations will have a small piece of wood in one side and a larger indentation on the other side to form the plantain piece into a small cup to stuff with shrimp or other foods. These can also be used to make mini mofongos.




Puerto Rican Food

Caldero – assorted sized cast iron pots are absolutely required in any Puerto Rican kitchen. Asopoa, Sopa de Pollo, carne guisado, rice and other Puerto Rican Recipes all need to be cooked in a cast iron pot to come out perfectly, although some may prefer to use a modern rice cooker instead. Cast iron pots are perfect for even heat distribution while cooking and always add a little sabor.


Cafetera Cafetera – Usually a cast aluminum 3 piece coffee pot that steams the water and forces it up through the coffee to make perfect Puerto Rican Coffee. This is different from a regular drip pot that only allows the hot water to drip through the coffee. The forcing of steam through the coffee gives it the richest flavor.

Colador – another option to making Puerto Rican Coffee by boiling the ground coffee and in a pot and straining the coffee through the cloth strainer to hold back the coffee grounds from the rich full flavor brewed coffee. Because of the staining of the coffee grounds, this kitchen item is often referred to the dirty sock.

Sazon - is a seasoning is used on meats, fish, poultry and even to flavor soups and stews.  Most common ingredients include, cilantro, achiote, garlic, salt. Sazon is used to season many Puerto Rican Food dishes.

Puerto Rican Recipes

Adobo – Adobo is a very basic seasoning for all Puerto Rican cooking. Adobo is made up or several dry ingredients mixed together and sprinkled on meats before cooking or in asopaos or guisados. Adobo is made by mixing garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and black pepper. Salt is also added but should be used sparingly to avoid over salting of your food. There are many commercial brands of adobo, Goya being the most popular in the United States and Bohio brand is more recognized in Puerto Rico. We recommend making your own adobo so you can adjust the amounts of the separate seasonings used to your own taste.

Sofrito – is essential when cooking beans, rice dishes, soups or asopaos. Sofrito gets most of its flavor from recao and aji dulces, little sweet peppers. Roasted red pepper, yellow onions, plum tomatoes, garlic and cubanelle peppers are also added. Sofrito is usually cooked in annatto oil or olive oil with cured ham or salted pork.

Recaito – is very similar to sofrito but has more culantro. It is a mixture of culantro, peppers, garlic and onions. It gets its name from being referred to as "little culantro". Great for seasoning stews or soups.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Puerto Rican Coffee

Puerto Rican Coffee

The Island of Puerto Rico - situated in the northern Caribbean, to the west of the Virgin Islands and east of Dominican Republic – is an un-incorporated territory of the United Sates of America. Though it may not match up to its Columbian counterpart, Puerto Rico still enjoys a very long association with coffee. The bean first made its way into Puerto Rico in the 18th century, and since, has become its main export. This is why Puerto Rican coffee is famous all around the world.

Apart from its enormous economic contribution to the tiny nation, Puerto Rican coffee has also had a lasting impact on the country’s cultural front. Jibaros- the romantic mountainfolk of Puerto Rico – also owe their rise to the production of coffee in this country.

The Jibaros used to work the coffee plantations for their wealthy landowners. Having been an uneducated lot, their only form of expression was music. Like Puerto Rican coffee, the songs of the Jibaros have also stood the test of time. The soil of Puerto Rico is volcanic and rich in nature. The climate of the island is also very suitable for growing coffee. Café Yauco Selecto is one of the premium blends offered by the Island. Alto Grande – a super premium blend is the highest quality coffee.

Puerto Rico Coffee

The three main brands of Puerto Rico coffee as follows:

Café Rico

Café Rico is a Puerto Rican coffee company that produces this beverage with the same brand name. The Headquarters of Café Rico are situated in the city of Ponce. Café Rico is one of the best coffees offered by this country. Café Rico also has a partnership with Tauco Estate Coffee. Café Rico was established in the 30s. It was sold to Puerto Rico Coffee roaster in July 2008. Café Rico is the biggest selling brand in Puerto Rico.

Café Yaucono

Cafe Yaucono is a brand of Puerto Rico coffee that was first created by Tomas Prado in 1914. In 1916, Prado sold this brand to the heirs of Miguel Ruiz, who, in turn, sold it to Jimenez in 1917. The coffee business came to ruins in the subsequent years due to the great depression and the Second World War. The company was re-opened after the war. In 1963, Cafe Yaucono undertook an aggressive marketing campaign introducing Mama Ines – the most famous marketing symbol in the history of this tiny nation. Cafe Yaucono received the highest Puerto Rican product Association award in 1985. It was also awarded the commercial prestige award by Spain in 1996. Cafe Yaucono holds forty percent of the coffee market in Puerto Rico.

Café Crema

Café Crema is one of the three major roasters in the Puerto Rican coffee industry that has massive production capabilities. With its two major competitors, Café Crema holds seventy percent of the coffee market in Puerto Rico. Apart from selling in its home county, Café Crema also exports its product internationally where you can buy different kinds of coffee in several sizes of attractive packaging.

There are three ways in which you can take your Puerto Rican coffee:

The standard Italian espresso is brewed in an espresso machine and taken black. Puerto Rican call it pocillo referring to the small cups in which it is served.

Cafe con Leche
Cafe con Leche

It is an espresso which contains a thin layer of steamed milk.

Café con leche
In Puerto Rico it comprises of a large dollop of milk in a bigger cup.

Yauco, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is best known around the world for its beaches and its international singing sensations. However, quite a few locals would emphasize that it is coffee of this island that will ultimately win you over. Yauco is located in South –Western Puerto Rico and spans over one hundred seventy square kilometers. The population of the city is around fifty thousand. The city got its name from river Yauco. However, Yaucovans call their city la ciudad del café (city of coffee).

Yauco also produces oranges and tobacco but its main crop is, without doubt, coffee. The coffee produced here is deep and vibrant. The acidity level is restrained, giving it a rich and gentle flavor. Yauco beans are famous all over the world.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Preserving our traditional Puerto Rican cuisine

Preserving our traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. . .

by Erisbelia Garriga

Puerto Rican Foods

Each ethnic group considers its own typical cuisine as the best food in the world. At the same time virtually all cuisines have had foreign influence. Puerto Rican cuisine has been no different, with contributions from Spanish, French, African and more recently American food. One pillar of Puerto Rican cooking is its seasoning, sofrito, which gives it its distinctive flavor.

I was born and raised in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I grew up among women who loved cooking, always in the kitchen preparing all kinds of dishes. Mention that you had a particular craving for something and one of them would get up and begin preparing it, without recipes. And whatever they made, it would taste wonderfully great. Today we still crave some of those traditional dishes.

Puerto Rican food is very delicious, especially when you remember the smoky flavors provided by using wood as heat when our mothers and grandmothers cooked. This was food eaten with your fingers, licking them as you finished eating. I savor the opportunity I had to taste and remember those dishes. It‘s harder today to recapture that distinctive flavor due in part to the equipment use in the modern kitchens. People seek out kiosks or come y vetes (old-fashioned fast food places) and order alcapurrias, sorullos, empanadillas, among others. In every town in the Island and in almost all states in the United States where Puerto Ricans live, there is always a local who can point you to those eateries.

Puerto Rican Cuisine

Puerto Ricans’ passion for food and their culture is expressed through their cuisine. Nearly every occasion is celebrated with food and music to enjoy the moment, especially traditional cooking: lechón asado or pernil (roast pork), rice with pigeon peas, rice with chicken, pasteles, asopao de gandules, de camarones, de pollo, among others, even when it’s not the season for some of these dishes. Needless to say, the “fast food” influence has changed the way we eat. We seem not to have enough time to cook and enjoy delicious traditional dishes the way we used to with our families.

Yet, chefs have been revolutionizing our traditional food, using their skills to create new dishes, opening the door for others to do the same by using their imagination. Increasingly, there is a fusion of cuisines, combining our traditional with that of other ethnic groups using locally produced ingredients. Our typical “pastel”, which used to be prepared with green bananas only is now prepared using breadfruit, ñame, yautía, calabaza, apio, malanga, rice, often in combination. There are festivals in various towns in Puerto Rico celebrating individual ingredients creating exciting new dishes, such as pigeon peas cake, pigeon peas custard, and pasteles de apio.

It’s safe to say our traditional dishes will never disappear as long as there are people who wish to preserve them, who are willing to pass them on to their children, passing on their knowledge from one generation to the next. This is their legacy, and one venue is through the written word. This, then, is the purpose of Sabrosuras Boricuas and Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking. ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Eris Carriga

Erisabelia Garriga, a native of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, did her undergradutate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, and graduate studies at New York University. After some years in high school and college teaching, shes worked for the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, from which she is now retired.

Ms. Garriga has published two cookbooks: Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking, Traditional Recipes with a Modern Touch! and Sabrosuras Boricuas, Recetas Criollas Puertorriqueñas con un Toque Moderno.

You can visit her website

Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking

This family cookbook will introduce the reader to our treasured classic Puerto Rican recipes as well as new ones. It is a collection of family recipes and the result of my experimentation with them. It is about innovation, taking simple ingredients and playing them off each other. The majority of the recipes are from my parents, others are personal and a few others from family members and friends. There are variations and familiar dishes were recreated, sometimes using substitute ingredients. Though family members, using the same ingredients, will prepare similar dishes in a different way, the end result is, nonetheless, a delicious, enjoyable dish.

You can buy this book at the Puerto Rico Store On line

Buy this Book at the Puerto Rico Store On Line

Sabrosuras Boricuas

Sabrosuras Boricuas, Puerto Rican Recipes with a Modern Touch is a family recipe's collection with a lot of pictures and easy to prepare. Sabrosuras Boricuas received an "Honorific Mention" in the "9th International Latino Book Awards" celebrated in the Javits Center, in New York, on May 31, 2007. Also won in the category of the "Better Latin Book Cuisine" in Latin America, in the contest "Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2006" celebrated in Madrid, Spain. The book will be at the "Olympic Exhibition" of cuisine books and wines that Gourmand will exhibit in Beijing during the Olympic year from August, 2007 to August, 2008. Sabrosuras Boricuas is a gastronomic trip to the Island of Enchantment without the expense of the trip. It is the ideal gift for any occasion as birthday, weddings, or to give your thanks to that special person.

You can buy this book at the Puerto Rico Store On line

Buy this Book at the Puerto Rico Store On Line

Puerto Ricans in the US and the 2010 Census: 100 years and still counting … A reflection

By Victor Vázquez-Hernández

In the closing days of 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau began to release the data collected earlier this year. For Puerto Ricans in the Diaspora (US-based), the 2010 census has a particular historical meaning --- it marks the 100th anniversary since the first US Census, back in 1910, started counting Puerto Ricans as a separate group. It would be a good time for our community to take stock of where we are and how far we have come in one century. For the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR), which will be hosting its 9th National Puerto Rican Convention in Miami on October 7-9, 2011, these new data present us with the opportunity to put together a status report on Puerto Ricans in the U.S..

What will the data from the 2010 Census tell us? What long-term comparisons can we make about our presence in the US? Puerto Ricans were present in the US since before 1910, and have been here, in some cities in particular, for some five generations. What will the Census tell us about how we fare compared to other migrant/immigrant groups in the U.S.? These will be important questions to ponder as we struggle to make sense of the Census data and what it tells us about our communities stateside and, if recent data is any indication, the results of the 2010 Census are going to be a mix bag for us.

On the one hand, the data already released confirms what Angelo Falcón, President of the National Institute for Latino Policy told us back in 2004: there are now more Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. than on the Island. The Census also confirms that Puerto Rico lost 2% percent of its population since 2000, a significant loss. We know, at this point, that most of those who left the island have come to live in the U.S., mostly to other Puerto Rican communities. But, we can also see that the Census will confirm that the Puerto Rican Diaspora is, well, more diasporic, i.e., more dispersed. It now appears that Puerto Ricans have followed the general pattern in the U.S. of internal migration from the Northeast and Midwest to points South and Southwest. Florida is now clearly the state with the second largest Puerto Rican population in the country. In addition, states like Texas, Arizona, and California are now among the ten states with the largest Puerto Rican populations in the U.S.

In terms of socio-economic factors, the 2010 Census is likely to reflect some significant gains for Puerto Ricans but also some troubling areas as well. Among Puerto Ricans in the U.S., there are probably more college graduates than ever, more homeowners and more who have moved into middle-class status. But these trends are probably going to vary from region to region. For instance, in terms of education, recent studies conducted in Philadelphia and New York City have found that Puerto Rican youth are graduating high schools at a 50% rate. In those cities, Puerto Rican youth are being outperformed even by newer immigrant groups, namely Dominicans and Mexicans. And while Puerto Ricans made national news with the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor, a second-generation Puerto Rican from the Bronx to the US Supreme Court, and José Acaba, the first boricua astronaut in outer space, there are disproportionately more young Puerto Ricans incarcerated than in college.

So, while we have much to celebrate and contemplate after 100 years of Census data, it's time to take serious stock and determine where we go from here. For its part, the NCPRR will convene a working group to produce this status report and calls upon anyone interested in participating to contact us. We also invite everyone to attend the convention in Miami where the report will be made public and call upon our communities to engage in a conversation about ... "¿dónde estamos y hacia dónde vamos?" (Where are we and where are we heading?).
Let the conversation begin.

Victor Vázquez-Hernández, PhD is President of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR) and an Associate Professor of History at Miami Dade College. He is co-editor of The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives (2005). Dr. Vázquez-Hernández can be reached at