I feel strongly about upholding culinary traditions. So much gets diluted in our over homogenized society, that respect for prior generations seems to go by the way side. Fortunately, I have access to a treasure trove of old family recipes passed down by my Grandparents, and Great Grandparents. This recipe here is not one of those, and it is not traditional either.
To make carnitas the old Mexico way, you would take a large piece of pork and melt an almost equal amount lard over it. After cooking the pork low and slow so that all the binding tissues in the pork melt, the heat would get cranked up. This would make the pork crispy. I’m not particularly keen on cooking anything in 2 lbs of melted lard, but I love carnitas. Thus this is an alternative recipe that will provide the same flavor, just without the lard. It’s Texas style as I gleaned the recipe of my boy Gordo who has roots in the Tejanos culture.
Gordo cooks his pork in a bottle of cola and orange juice, but I omit the cola and stick solely to the acidity in the orange and limes.
This is what you need:
- 1 crockpot / slow cooker, or a dutch oven.
- 1 casserole dish or baking sheet.
- 3 1/2 – 4 pound boneless pork shoulder
- Juice of two oranges or approximately 3/4 cup orange juice
- juice of two limes
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbps. salt or more to taste
- 2 tbps. ground cumin
- 1 tbps. chili powder
- 6-7 cloves of garlic, crushed or 1-2 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 bay leaf
Here’s how we do it:
If you’re using a dutch oven, preheat your oven to 300° F and chop your should down to 2-4 inch chunks so they fit in your pot. Place a bay leaf at the bottom of your pot, then place your roast on top. Combine your spices and sprinkle them on your roast. Add your garlic, orange juice, and lime juice. Now it’s time to get that pork nice and tender. We’re going to go low and slow, allowing the acidity from the citrus juice to break down the collagen in the roast. The end goal of this phase is to have a roast that’s easily falls apart with a fork. If you’re using a dutch oven, your cook time is approximately 2 hours. In the crock pot, cook times are approximately 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 on low. Make sure to check your roast so you don’t over cook it.
Once your roast is sufficiently tender, take the meat and place it on a baking sheet or casserole dish. Separate the meat using your hands or a fork. Take the remaining cooking liquid and pour it over your shredded roast. Now you’re going to place the meat either under the broiler, or in a hot oven around 400°F, until the liquid is gone. This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Be sure to check the pan around the 5 minute mark, as you don’t want to dry out your roast. You’re abode should smell amazing by now and all you have left to do is grub down.
The rest is up to you. This is easily enjoyed in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or with some scrambled eggs. Garnish with a little cilantro, some avocado, and your favorite salsa or hot sauce. As an aside, this is not a definitive recipe by any means, it’s just one that is simple and works for me. Some cat’s like to throw some cinnamon in with the roast while cooking. Others will throw in a bottle of coke, or a can of beer. You’re mileage may vary. Do any readers have their own recipe or additions? I’d love to hear them.