I got my mojo on … haven’t lost my mojo … go pick up some Cuban mojo. Mojo … just what the heck does that word mean, anyhow? Is it really a word? Is it pronounced moe-jo? And what does “have your mojo on” have to do with a food item? Well, if these questions have been keeping y’all up at night, good ol’ Chef Bill is here to put an end to your insomnia.
The term mojo likely came from in Spain or maybe Portugal; it refers to a sauce that originated in the Canary Islands. This sauce was made with a combination of garlic, pork lard, citrus and chili pepper. So there’s where you get the food-based meaning.
And leave it to those nations of great explorers to discover—not medicine, not science, not gems or gold—but a true treasure instead: A Sauce. I can just imagine the King and Queen of Spain’s excitement when the explorers brought them this exquisite, rare discovery. “That’s awesome. Now you guys go find us something cool to drink with this sauce and stop by the castle this Sunday. We will have tapas!”
Anyhow, eventually, as the ship crews of these great nations of explorers made their ways across the Atlantic and arrived in the New World, they brought with them not only a few pesky European diseases, but this awe-inspiring flavor treat known as mojo. If you’re thinking this mojo sauce was the first item to be offered in the Columbian Exchange, then we are really on the same page, you hyper-intelligent, thoughtful reader you! Thus, mojo sauce is also associated with Cuban cuisine, such as the famous mojo marinated roast pork, and is commonly found throughout the Caribbean and even … you know it … Florida! The Canary Islands’ influence is found where this spicy, delectable sauce is used.
Things on the other side of the meaning of mojo represent a fascinating bit of local history and etymology (i.e., history of a word—ya know, what I’m writing about here!). The term mojo is also said to have derived from the Gullah word moco, meaning witchcraft. So mojo also means magic. “Watch out, ladies, I got my mojo back. None of you are safe from my charms” might’ve been crooned by any ’50s blues singer. Gullah is the language spoken in the Low Country and Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia and even our own Amelia Island, the final Sea Island. Throughout these islands, the African and American languages were combined to form the Gullah dialect.
So we have it both ways here in NEFla. We get our mojo on, we got mojo, and we use mojo to make some magic—especially if you use my mojo marinade for your next meal!
Chef Bill’s Mojo Marinade
• 8 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tsp. cumin
• 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
• 2 oranges, juiced
• 4 limes, juiced
• 2 oz. olive oil
• 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
• 2 Tbsp. ground chipotle powder
• Salt & pepper to taste
1. Mix all the ingredients.
2. Coat a boneless pork butt with half the marinade, cover and refrigerate.