Butt {pork carnitas}

“Butt” was on the list of words we weren’t allowed to say growing up. We could say “bottom” or “fanny,” but “butt” was off-limits. We had to say things like “fluff” or “poot” and “darn” was about as vitriolic as things were allowed to get. If mom was really mad, she’d yell “sugar” or “dadgummit” but things remained fairly G-rated for the majority of my youth.

To confuse the children, there was one exception when “butt” was not only allowed to be uttered, but it was said with wonder, awe and sometimes a satisfactory guttural moan. In such cases, it was always preceded by the word “pork.” And if we were confused by the four-letter word being tossed around willy-nilly, then you can imagine how confused we were when we were going to eat something called butt. There was giggling.

Pork butt was generally something that was reserved for a special occasion – a long day when you could spend some time going back and forth between the living room and the garage checking on the smoker to see how the meat was coming. Shoulder also made an annual appearance at our family reunion, with the grandparents, cousins and kids gathered around the kettle grill, trying to nab the fatty bits while Dad wasn’t looking (he never wasn’t looking).

I had a hankering for some pork last week and decided that I wanted to try to do something tasty in the slow-cooker. I know my limitations for pork on the grill, and since I didn’t want to do barbecue inside, I decided to make carnitas. I drew on my experiences with the slow-cooker beef brisket, and came up with a delicious, easy recipe for melt-in-your-mouth pork.

And now I will share it with you:

  • 2-3 lb. pork shoulder/Boston butt
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smooshed
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 orange, halved
  • olive oil

Start off by prepping your few veggies and getting your crock pot out. Go ahead and turn it to low.

I used two old wrinkly jalapeños and they still worked. Try not to judge my peppers. Grab the shoulder out of the fridge and give it a good wipe down. Season it with salt and pepper and place a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and brown your pork on all sides. Stick it in the slow cooker.

Now for the veg. Take the skillet in which you browned the pork and stick it back on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for about 5-6 minutes until the onions begin to soften. After a couple minutes, add the cumin and oregano.

Add the jalapeños and then deglaze the pan with the juice of the orange (saving the peels) and the chicken stock (1/2 a beer would probably work really well here too). Bring to a boil and then pour over the pork in the slow-cooker. Add the oranges in there too and cover.

Cook on low for 12-15 hours or until the pork is falling apart. Pull it out of the pot and pull apart with two forks.

I ended up cooking this overnight, which meant it was ready to be eaten for breakfast. I, however, was not in the mood for pork pancakes. After shredding the meat, I put it in a Tupperware along with the strained liquid from the crock pot. This served two purposes: 1) when I wanted to reheat the pork that evening, I could do it on the stove in some saucy goodness and 2) by sticking it in the fridge, the fat from the liquid and pork would solidify on top making it easier to skim off and create diet pork.

Fast-forward to dinner. Time to assemble some tacos. I had planned to make homemade tortillas but when Rick Bayless himself direct-messaged me back on Twitter (!), he informed me that I didn’t have the right masa. We’ll do that next time. I did have cilantro, onions, lime and radish though, and some store-bought corn tortillas just in case.

Assemble and eat.