By Sara Dueñas Flores
Turcos, turnovers filled with thrice-cooked pork loin, fruit, and nuts, are a South Texas specialty that my Grandma, Sara, has been making in her family for over 70 years. Their history is extensive to just be such tiny, tasty pockets.
The insides of Turcos are so well cooked and preserved, so they last for months after they are prepared. There have been many years when we arrive for Christmas and find a turco or two from months before (you have to look in Grandma’s hiding place for the pretty ones). They still taste as if they were made that morning.
Notes: This recipe makes twice the amount of the filling than the dough, but it can be frozen for later use. Because the meat is cooked three times, boiled, cooked in a pan and then oven-baked, it keeps for a long time unrefrigerated.
4 cups flour
¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
1 ½ cups Crisco
1 cup cinnamon-anise tea
2-3 pounds of pork loin
1-2 sticks Mexican cinnamon
½ stick butter or margarine
2 cups dark brown sugar or 2 crumbled piloncillos
2 cups raisins
2 cups chopped pecans
1 jar mincemeat
Chopped apples or applesauce
Cover pork loin with water and boil with cinnamon sticks until the meat is falling apart. Drain and cut into small pieces or grind in grinder.
Boil 3 cups water with 1 tablespoon anise seeds and 4 to 6 small cinnamon sticks, broken up, until the tea turns dark reddish brown. Add water as it evaporates. It may take more than 30 minutes. Makes about one cup of tea. Drain seeds/sticks and add sugar to hot tea to dissolve. Let it cool.
In a large pot or pan, melt butter or margarine and add meat. Stir frequently. Add brown sugar or crumbled piloncillos. You may have to melt the piloncillo in boiling water or cinnamon tea. Add ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground anise, ground cloves and nutmeg, if desired. Keep adding until you get the taste you like. It may take up to a tablespoon of the spices to make it just right.
Add raisins, chopped pecans, mincemeat, and chopped apples or applesauce, if desired. Stir constantly. Cook over low heat until the mixture dried out and tastes good. About an hour. The mixture will turn dark brown. Set aside to cool.
Mix dry ingredients; cut in shortening and add tea. Mix well. Knead. Add flour, if needed. Make into small balls to roll out or press out in a tortilla press between two plastic sheets or wax paper.
Fill the turco dough circles and fold over and crimp or press edges with a fork. Add a milk wash. Place in ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400° F until golden brown.