Carnitas de Puerco

(Mexican Tender-Crisp Pork)

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

Many cultures have their version of slow-cooked shredded/pulled meat. Islander grew up eating kalua pua’a in Hawaii, so she already liked the similar carnitas de puerco when we moved to San Antonio, Texas. This Mexican recipe uses spiced pork that is slow cooked until tender, shredded or pulled, then fried to a crisp.

For our simple Cinco de Mayo celebration, we made carnitas for soft tacos. But the meat is versatile in many Mexican dishes—as a filling in tamales, burritos or empanadas or as an entrée with rice and beans.

Cook up some carnitas de puercofor a fun and festive food for Cinco de Mayo.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt/shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (we used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Line slow cooker with cooking bag (optional). Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all over. In a small bowl, mix the oregano and cumin with the olive oil. Rub the oil mixture over the pork. Place in a slow cooker.

Chop the onions, mince the garlic, chop the jalapeno and cut the orange. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the slow cooker over the pork. Place the orange halves in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Remove from the slow cooker and place on a deep plate. Cool slightly and then shred/pull with fork. In a large skillet or pan, heat the vegetable oil on high. Press a few chunks of shredded pork in the oil and fry until crispy on one side. Drain on paper towels. Serve as a filling or as main dish.

Notes

  • Cinco de Mayo is a minor Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate May 5, it is September 16 that is more significant as Mexico’s Independence Day. Many Americans, however, enjoy fiesta foods and the commercialized culture of Cinco de Mayo but this holiday can be a teachable moment about Hispanic history.
  • Traditionally, pork is stewed in its own lard to maintain the moistness in the meat. The fat in the pork butt/shoulder is not trimmed so it can do the same in the slow clooker.
  • Search our blog for more Mexican recipes under the Theme Menus category.

 

Kālua Pua’a

(Hawaiian Pulled Pork)

October: National Pork Month

Let’s luau, everyone! Whenever we have get-togethers with ‘ohana (family) and friends and need to feed the crowd, we make kālua pua’a (Hawaiian-style pulled pork). Pigs represent a “bounty of blessings” at a buffet because the animal is big and can feed plenty of people, so they are served at many huge celebrations around the world.

In Hawaii, traditionally (and touristically), kālua pig is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. A pit is dug in the earth and heated with rocks from fire using sandalwood/mesquite. Meat simply seasoned with sea salt is wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed in the pit. Then it is buried in a layer of sand or soil and left to cook-steam for several hours until the meat is tender, smoky and juicy. Mmmmm…’ono!

Obviously, it is impractical for us to build an imu without ample space, fire-safe facilities and permission from the strict homeowners’ association to do it in our backyard. A crockpot has become a handy and convenient substitute to cook kālua pig at home for a smaller group. We take a piece of pork shoulder/butt, rub Hawaiian sea salt all over it, place it in a crockpot with liquid smoke flavoring and leave it to cook slowly for several hours. It is so easy to “fix it and forget it”—and the result is tender, smoky pulled pork that tastes almost like the ones served at luaus.

Cook kālua pua’a in a crockpot for a little luau and celebrate National Pork Month. Aloha!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5-7 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (boneless)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (or coarse salt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons liquid smoke (depending on taste)

Directions

Line crockpot with slow cooker bags for easy cleanup (see Notes). Rinse the pork in water and pat dry. Cut slits in the pork (or pierce with the tines of a fork) then rub the sea salt and liquid smoke all over.

Place in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender all the way to the center. Shred with fork. Drain off some of the fat and liquid and serve over rice or between slices of Hawaiian bread.

Notes

  • Lining the bottom of the crockpot with clean banana leaves will impart a nice tropical flavor, too.
  • Adding more liquid smoke to the recipe depends on one’s preference for a smokier flavor.
  • Instead of kālua pig at parties, we sometimes serve a whole roast pig.
  • Our Texas friends like to add barbecue sauce on our Hawaiian pulled pork for a Southern-style sandwich (served on Hawaiian sweet bread/buns).
  • Saute some sliced onions and chopped cabbage with leftover kālua pig and serve with steamed white rice for a filling meal.
  • Search our Theme Menus for more Hawaiian and local recipes.