I can’t believe I’m only just getting this recipe into a blog post. I think it’s because its one of those dishes we have so often that I throw it together without even thinking. You’d think that would make an easy write up, but it ends up being really tricky to sit down and list out the precise ingredient quantities and directions for a process which has become reflexive and automatic. Nevertheless, for you, dear readers, I have made the effort.
This recipe was given to me in a simpler form. Over the years I have tweaked it here and there to our tastes. It’s simple, budget friendly, packed with flavor, feeds a crowd or makes multiple meals, … what more can you ask for? I hope you’ll take it and tweak it here and there and over time make it yours!
feeds 4-6, depending on how much you pile onto your tortillas
(can easily be doubled)
3lb boneless pork shoulder/butt/roast or country style ribs (or 4lb bone in), cut into large chunks or slabs
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp chili
1 Tbsp cumin
2/3 Tbsp salt
1 onion, chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 beer, pilsner is best but I’ve used darker beers too (optional, can use water)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
Combine chili, cumin, and salt and rub all over pork. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with a lid. Sear the pork on all sides (in batches if necessary) until browned, about 5-7 minutes; transfer to a plate
Make your life easier and zest/juice the orange and lime straight into the same bowl.
Heat the remaining Tbsp oil in the same pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits and spices from the pork. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Pour in the zest/juice, and beer (or about 1 cup of water) and scrape up any remaining browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the pork and all the accumulated juices to the pot. Add the cinnamon stick. The liquid should almost but not quite cover the pork, so add as much water as necessary to do that. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cover and cook for about 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove any egregious chunks of fat, bones (if applicable) and the cinnamon stick. Break the pork up into smaller chunks. Continue to simmer for another hour, with the lid off, until fork tender and shreddable.
At this point you can decide between serving juicy carnitas, or cooking down all the liquid until the carnitas fries up in it’s own fat. If I’m keeping it juicy, I strain out all the liquid and skim off as much of the grease as I can (although my husband objects to this “stripping of all the good stuff”). Then I return the juices to the carnitas, salt to taste, and serve. If I want to fry it up I just cook down the liquid, stirring frequently, until the liquid has all evaporated. Then the pork begins to sizzle and fry and it gets addictively crispy and flavorful. Sometimes I’ll serve it the first time around juicy, then freeze leftovers in their juices, and use the next batch for crispy carnitas. Whichever you choose, keep in mind, the flavor will intensify the more you cook it down so salt sparingly if you’re going all way.
Serve with any or all of the following: tortillas, beans, pickled jalapenos, chopped red onions, chopped cilantro, avocado, cotija, salsa, sour cream, lime wedges, zesty coleslaw. Leftovers freeze really well and make great additions to burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, breakfast hashes, etc.