I’ve been using my slow cooker A LOT this winter. Two reasons – the first reason, is honestly, it saves me a lot of money. And the second reason – I have a toddler. I can fix the meal in the morning during his snack time when he is firmly strapped into his highchair, or when he is sleeping at midday. Trying to cook a meal from scratch at 5:00pm with a toddler underfoot is usually a DISASTER. Either he is a whiny mess who is hanging off my leg and needing to be plied with crackers to just.leave.me.alone or he is off doing unimaginable amounts of damage to the house knowing full well my hands are coated in something sticky or something is frying and I can’t turn my back on it!! Arrgh!! (Today he emptied the entire contents of my purse and my wallet and spread it to every corner of our living room – thanks Gibson! sigh…)
And back to the money-saving bit: did you ever notice that the cheapest meat is usually those tough cuts or the ones you just don’t know what to do with? Well, hey, guess what — those are almost always perfect for long, slow cooking! If you don’t have a slow cooker (crockpot) you can also make these recipes in a heavy ovenproof pot (usually called a dutch oven, a french oven or a braiser). The cooking time will be less but you will still end up with succulent meat that is moist and tender.
In the last few weeks I’ve bought organic stew beef that I found marked down 50% off, a double pack of whole chickens on sale, and some chunks of pork that were a solid bargain. All went in the slow cooker (ahem, not at the same time of course!)
Normally for cooking carnitas or our other pork favourite, BBQ pulled pork, we buy a whole piece of pork called Schweins Schulter or Schulter-Braten. This is the pork shoulder (or pork butt as it’s sometimes called – though pork butt is not the behind of the pig! it’s a confusing term 🙂 )
However in a pinch you can use some chopped chunks of pork called Voressen. It’s hard to get a definitive answer on what exactly the cut used for Voressen is, but pretty much stew meat and it’s used to make “Voressen” the dish of the same name, which is the Swiss-German version of Ragoût a slow-braised french dish which we know alternatively as stew, Ragú, Goulash… yep, seems every culture has a recipe for cooking meat until it’s tender and delicious!
Anyway either cut of meat will work, it depends on what you have to hand. In this recipe I used Voressen, because that’s what I bought!
So, if you’ve never had Carnitas – it is traditionally cooked in a big pot of lard until the fat renders out of the meat and leaves the edges crisped and the meat is falling-apart tender. Well, that’s not exactly the healthiest method for your average meal, so we’ve decided to cook the meat in a flavourful marinade and then crisp it up under the broiler/grill just before serving.
slow-cooked pork carnitas
900g Pork shoulder (Schweins-schulter braten)
-or- 2x 500g packets Voressen
Juice from 1 navel orange, or 1 cup orange juice (fresh or from concentrate) or a combination of beer and orange juice (light colored beer works best)
juice from 1 lime
1/2 tablespoon chili powder (add more or use less if you like it spicy/not spicy)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, quartered
In a bowl or ziplock bag, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Add pork to the bowl or bag and shake or turn meat until it is completely coated.
Place the meat and the rest of your ingredients into your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat before returning to the pot with the juices; season with salt and pepper, to taste, if needed. Cover and keep warm for an additional 30 minutes.
Preheat your grill/broiler (this is the max heat setting for the top element only)
Place carnitas onto a baking sheet and broil until crisp and crusted, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with tortillas, some cabbage salad, avocado, cheese – whatever you fancy!
As always, a little extra tip. In order to improve the flavour of those doughy flabby store-bought flour tortillas – you can cook them up in a hot, non-coated pan for a few minutes until they blister and puff up. Really helps them have a slightly more authentic taste 😉 I’ve made a little video that you can see here: