I had no idea what they were, nor had I ever seen large pieces of meat presented as a table centerpiece on a platter with lots of tacos dorados and chicharrones.
I immediately asked Hubby what they were, to which he simply responded, "Carnitas."
"Honey, I can see that it's meat! But what kind of meat is it?"
That's when I got Hubby to spill the beans. No, not the beans that were at the table. The beans about Carnitas. And believe me, Hubby knew plenty. He learned to make them at his high school which was very much like a 4-H club.
Traditional Jalisco Carnitas are made by cooking a whole pig (minus the head), which has been cut into large pieces and seasoned only with salt, in a special large copper pot called a cazo, filled with manteca (pork lard).
Once the Carnitas have been completely cooked in the manteca, they are then bathed with a mixture of orange juice and milk. This helps to de-glaze the cazo and to caramelize the Carnitas.
Carnitas are served whole, so you can experience the joy of pulling the meat apart with your bare hands, armed with nothing but a warm, corn tortilla.
Now as much as I love Carnitas, eating meat that has spent most of the day swimming in lard is not something I want to do often. So...I've devised a much easier (and slightly healthier) way to enjoy carnitas.
- 2 pounds lomo de cerdo (pork shoulder roast), cut in chunks
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 sprig cilantro (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lard, shortening or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons milk
Place the pork, onion, garlic and cilantro in a small (2 quart) stockpot. Fill the stockpot with enough water to cover the pork (5 to 6 cups); season with salt and pepper. Now, I know I said Carnitas are only seasoned with salt, but since we're not cooking them in lard, we need to add a little flavor.
Cover the stockpot and cook the meat over medium-high heat until most of the water has evaporated and the meat can easily be pulled apart. Drain any excess water.
Once you've removed all of the water, add the 2 tablespoons of lard or vegetable oil to the meat. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the pork meat turns a deep golden brown.
Stir in the orange juice and milk to de-glaze the stockpot. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
Serve with Frijoles Adobados, Mexican Rice, Ensalada de Nopales and plenty of warm corn tortillas. Enjoy!!!