Carnitas

Tender deliciousness the whole family will love!

I'm not sure in how deeply Europeans are familiar with Mexican food. What I mean is, homecooked, not from a pre-packaged, processed starter-kit you can find at the grocery store. Having spent a lot of time in Mexico, and having had a lot of Mexican immigrants touch my life at one point or another, and having eaten anywhere from Mexican 'hole in the wall' takeaways, to Mexican restaurants where live-Mariachi bands perform Johnny Cash at your table, to Mexican cuisine restaurants with a star chef at the helm... both my husband and I are quite unanimous that Mexican food is the best food in the world. It's possibly also the most time-consuming to make from scratch. Since living in France and learning to make it myself, I've also come to the conclusion that appreciating the food and loving the people you're cooking for are two of its secret ingredients. Without those two things, you simply wouldn't do it. Except being deprived of any of the above opportunities. But don't worry, with carnitas you can be eased in to the made from scratch Mexican kitchen. They are super easy to make and melt in your mouth delicious to eat!

Ingredients and preparation

For 4- 8 people (I cook leftovers or prep a next batch for the freezer)

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • About 1.5 to 2kg pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
    • or already cubed from the store also works as I did here
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced through garlic press or finely chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 juicing oranges, juiced and pulp included [Optional: add the juice of 2 limes as well.]
  • 2 juicing oranges washed and cut into wedges
  • [Optional: 1 cup of Coca-Cola full-sugar version, OR 1 cup of lager (Corona is best for cooking), OR 1 cup of milk, OR for real authentic, old-school... lard
    • I didn't use any of these options here. Either of them help to tenderize the meat. Coca-cola or lard also help it to crisp up. IF I'd choose any of these ingredients, it would be Coca-Cola. It doesn't make the end result taste like Coke, absolutely not, but it helps the meat reach a level of tenderness that is oh so delicious! Are you surprised? Yes, I was too. (Ginger Ale does that too, by the way but perhaps we'll discuss that at another time, in a recipe for slow-cooked barbecue.)
  • Olive oil or other cooking oil like sunflower oil (for after the pork has cooked)
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Method

  • Prepare all ingredients as described in the ingredients list above. The oil and the orange wedges can be set aside for later.
  • Combine all ingredients (except for the oil and the orange wedges) into a mixing bowl and mix well with your fingers. (use gloves if you have them)
    • Alternatively, combine all the spices together, and massage it well into the meat, then add onions and orange juice
  • Pour everything into your pre-heating slow cooker
  • Add the orange wedges all around
  • Cook on low heat for 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours (or as the instructions for your slow cooker dictate to use!)
  • At the end of this time, the meat will begin to fall apart, you should barely have to touch it
  • Remove the pork (you can discard the orange wedges at this stage)
  • Set aside the juice
  • Using two forks, the pork should easily shred
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    Crisping up the pork is the next vital step to delicious carnitas

    • Divide the shredded pork into portions
    • In a hot skillet, add some oil, let it heat and add one portion of shredded pork to the skillet to fry for about 1 minute without stirring
    • Add a small ladle of the cooking juices to the skillet
    • Let the juices cook away and let the pork continue to brown to desired colour. This takes a few minutes.
    • Repeat this process until all the pork has been crisped up

    Serving suggestions

    Heat flour tortilla (Old El Paso is a good brand) in a skillet or microwave (between two moist paper towels for about 30 seconds) until nice and soft. Scoop some of the carnitas into the flour tortilla and top with anything from salsa, to sour cream, cilantro, squeeze some lime and or orange over the meat, fold it over.

    Serve with Mexican rice (my cheat? When cooking rice, replace one cup of water with 1 cup of store bought salsa) - when using rice in a bag, add 1 cup of salsa to the water, then drain the water, mixing leftover veg with the rice. It's cheating but it works!). In this instance I also made Mexican pinto beans from scratch and then refried them in a skillet for refried beans. But that's a recipe for another day!

    Enjoy!

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