PoWI People and Culture - Garlic Pork
The Portuguese of the West Indies

The Diaspora

The Diaspora

History and Migration | The West Indies | People and Culture

Ferreira Family | Quintal FamilyAnthony Milne | Naparima Girls' High School | Restaurante Julius (in Portuguese)

This popular dish, known also as calvinadage (from the Portuguese Carne Vinha-d'Alhos), is usually served at Christmas time. For other versions see:

There are also recipes in local cookbooks, including one by Sylvia Hunt, and one in an American-authored cookbook on T&T, Callaloo, Calypso, and Carnival, by Dave DeWitt and Mary Jane Wilan. (The latter recipe is from the Coelho family in Trinidad.) Each family has their own special traditions!

Garlic pork is known among Madeiran-Portuguese Americans as 'pickled pork.'

Ferreira Family Recipe:


10 lbs pork (best from leg, so that the pork is meaty, not too much bone)
2 or more heads of garlic
4-6 tsp dry oregano
White vinegar (diluted 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water), or wine vinegar, undiluted
Salt to taste
Oil for frying pork


1. Cut pork into pieces, bigger than desired serving sizes since frying will reduce pork
2. Rub salt thoroughly into pieces of pork
3. Blend garlic, oregano and vinegar together
4. Place pork in glass or earthenware jar
5. Pour vinegar mixture over pork to cover all the pieces. Meat must be completely submerged in marinade mixture.
6. Cover and store for 2-3 days.


7. Remove required number of pieces and boil in small amount of liquid for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Cover while boiling.
8. Heat oil in a heavy skillet or frying pan. Fry pork until golden brown, turning occasionally.
9. Remove pork from frying pan and drain on absorbent paper.

© Jo-Anne S. Ferreira

Quintal Family Recipe

In this family, the household does fifteen pounds of pork per year at Christmas time and this lasts for just over one week and which family and friends consume over the period. A few pieces are usually kept for Easter Sunday morning. Other households do varying amounts of Garlic Pork at Christmas time but quantities over twenty pounds would typically be done for extended families as well. The process starts six days before Christmas day and typically consumption begins on Christmas morning.

This household has observed certain specifications or ratios over the years. The following description includes the original approach and ingredients as well as minor modifications to the method of preparation that have occurred over the years. It is useful to note that the original recipe would have come from a time in Madeira when there was no electricity nor refrigeration. All preparation is done under the strictest hygienic conditions. 


- Pork with all bones removed; Leg or belly depending on the amount of fat required

- Apple-cider vinegar

- Garlic

- Oregano thyme (Portuguese thyme, orégões, pronounced 'oorearsh' by the early immigrants)

- Large red or yellow peppers, with all seeds removed

- Salt


1) Use fresh pork (frozen pork is used by many today).

2) Scrape off any remaining hair on the skin of the pork (the frozen pork does not have hair to be removed).

3) Cut the pork into pieces measuring roughly 1" x 3" x 3".

4) Wash all of the pork three times in apple-cider vinegar, using two large basins to remove all blood from it and to ensure that it is entirely clean. (Today a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water is often used.)

5) Mince (now osterize, but not pulverize) the seasoning ingredients (altogether now the brine) and place into a large basin, mixing in and covering with apple-cider vinegar. The seasoning ingredients will be apple-cider vinegar, garlic, thyme, peppers and salt. The ratios used are three quarters of a pound of garlic per five pounds of pork; one large pepper per one pound of pork; three level cups thyme leaves  (stripped from the stems stem) per five pounds of pork; salt to taste. Actually, the brine is tasted (use a spoon and pour a small bit in the palm of your hand ) as you prepare it to determine if more pepper or salt is required.

6) Mix the pork into the brine in the basin and then begin adding to a wide-neck glass bottle/jar that the full ingredients will marinate in. Start by covering the bottom of the bottle with seasoning and then place pieces of pork, but separating each layer of pork with additional seasoning. The liquid part of the brine will also be automatically added as you  pour the seasoning,  ideally with a large stainless steel spoon. Eventually ensure that the last (top) pieces of pork are properly covered in seasoning and liquid. Do not pack the ingredients, but place lightly into the bottle / jar.

7) Cover the bottle / jar with a clean, non- metallic cover (this can be a double piece of plastic wrap kept in place over the edges of the bottle / jar by tying with a ribbon or by using a large rubber-band). Leave to marinate in a cool place for five-six days, without opening the bottle.

8) After the marinating period, and when you are ready to cook the pork, take the pork (only, removing any seasoning that may adhered to the meat) out of the bottle and place in a large iron pot on low heat so that the pork springs its own water and then bring to a boil, stirring and checking to ensure that the pieces do not overcook and become too soft to disintegrate; this aspect is called boiling down the pork. This is the last opportunity to add additional cut peppers/garlic/salt to the Garlic Pork so that one has to taste the liquid from the pot while the cooking is in progress; placing a few drops in the palm of your hand works. 

9) Once the pork is cooked it is taken out of the pot and placed on a large platter for it to cool. When it is fully cooled, the pork is placed back into the (properly washed) bottle that was previously used and the grease, skimmed from the top of the pot (after the pork is removed) is also put into the bottle to keep the pork moist. This bottle with the cooked pork is kept at room temperature; this can last for very several months and this was one method of preserving meat in earlier times.

10) Some of the grease can be kept in the refrigerator and used as a butter-type spread on the bread that is eaten with the Garlic Pork. When one is ready to consume the Garlic Pork, pieces of the pork are retrieved from the bottle and warmed to a light brown colour in a toaster oven, spreading some of the grease on it to retain moisture. (The original approach by the earlier generations was to cook the pork down in the pot and place directly in a plate for consumption, placing slices of home-made bread on it while cooking so that the vapors will permeate the bread (tastes great).

11) The Garlic Pork is consumed with pickled onions on Christmas mornings and otherwise for breakfast over the Christmas period and for visiting family and friends at that time. 

The onions are prepared separately for Christmas ... small peeled onions, immersed in apple-cider vinegar in a small covered bottle, with cloves and cut large peppers to taste and which is good for consumption after being in the bottle for just a few days. Garlic Pork combines great with home-made bread. Sometimes it is served to visiting friends and family in a small bun or separately as cutters when consuming the seasonal scotch and coconut water. Some families also start the Christmas morning with one drink of gin, another aspect of tradition.

© J. Wayne Quintal

Anthony Milne's Recipe (published in The Sunday Express, 22 December 1996, page 7, his mother is a Camacho, of Antigua, where there is a Portuguese-West Indian community).

From Polly B. Indar and Dorothy B. Ramesar, eds. Naparima Girls' High School Recipe Book. San Fernando: Rahaman Printery Ltd. 1988, p. 68


5 lbs garlic pork
"Portuguese" (fine) thyme
Half a hot Congo or Habanero pepper
Quarter pound garlic
1 tablespoon salt


1. Cut pork into 3" pieces and wash with vinegar
2. Mince garlic, thyme and hot pepper. Mix with salt and some vinegar and add to pork.
3. Put pork in a clay jar or glass container and pour more vinegar to cover.
4. Store in a cool place for 3-4 days.
5. Bake or fry.

N.B. It is better to use pork with little fat.

CARNE DE VINHA D'ALHOS from Restaurante Julius, Valle, Lucília B. O Paladar Madeirense. Funchal: Tourism Authority, 1990s

6 pessoas
900 grs de lombo de porco (com alguma gordura)
10 fatias de pão
900 grs de batatinhas novas
2 batatas doces

Para a Vinha d'alhos

2 dl de vinho branco
2 dl de vinagre
1 cálice de vinho verdelho seco
sal grosso
8 dentes de alho picados
1 folha de louro, pimenta ou malagueta

Passe o lombo de porco por água quente, deixe escorrer, depois corte aos bocados pequenos. Faça a marinada misturando todos os ingredientes de preferência num recipiente de barro, onde se introduz a carne de porco, que deve ficar toda coberta pela marinada. Deixe marinar pelo menos três dias.

Leve a carne a cozer na sua própria vinha d'alhos. Quando a carne estiver cozida, escorra e deixe arrefecer. Com a gordura retirada da cozedura, frite a carne e as fatias de pão cogrossas. Entretanto coza as batatinhas novas e asse as batatas doces.

As batatinhas novas serão depois alouradas na gordura de fritar a carne. A carne de vinha d'alhos é servida bem quente com rodelas de laranja, acompanhada das batatinhas alouradas, da batata doce assada e do p�o frito.

*A comemoração do Nascimento de Jesus, é chamada na Ilha da Madeira por "Festa". Em parte nenhuma do mundo, se vive, e celebra tanto a "Festa". A matança do porco, é uma tradição, e a exigência indispensável para a execução do prato "Carne de Vinho e Alhos", presente em todas as mesas madeirenses, no almoço do dia da "Festa".


History and Migration | The West Indies | People and Culture