According to Wikipedia "Carnitas literally meaning "little meats", is a dish of Mexican cuisine originating from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes several hours, and the result is very tender and juicy meat."
This is a great dish to prepare in your crock pot or a pressure cooker, as well as the traditional way in a stock pot over fire or in the oven. There are many variations on the spices & herbs added & how it is served, but the end result is a flavorful, tender plate of meat, that will make your taste buds explode.
Growing up in So Cal it was never hard to find a great plate of Carnitas served in a variety of different ways.
One of my favorites is from a restaurant called Avila's El Ranchito in San Clemete, CA. Their original Botana de Carnitas Pollo Platter is served with sliced avocados, fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, pico de gallo, lemon slices and warm tortillas. It is there where I got the inspiration of my own version of a Carnitas platter. I learned my recipe from a variety of great cooks over time, including my parents, friends & especially a Chef I worked with in Laguna Beach named Florentino who made the most spectacular Carnitas I've ever had. To this day I am certain he left out an ingredient, as I could never replicate his Carnitas exactly the same, or maybe it was infused with a bit of authentic Mexican tradition, culture & love.
Any way you prepare & serve it, I guarantee it will become a favorite among your family & friends. Please enjoy my version of this timeless Mexican classic.
4-5 Lb Pork Shoulder or Butt
1 Orange (halved)
3 Limes (2 halved 1 cut into wedges)
1 Onion (quartered)
1 Jalapeno (halved)
2 Bay Leaves
1 Cup of water
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Dried Thyme
1 Tsp Dried Basil
1 Tsp Ground Coriander Powder
1 Tsp Chili Powder
1 Tsp Paprika
½ Tsp Brown Sugar (optional)
Pat dry the pork, cut into large chunks to allow it to fit inside of your Crock Pot or Instant pot evenly, (trim off excessive fat, but not all fat) set aside.
Combine Salt, Cumin, Garlic, Thyme, Basil, Coriander, Chili Powder & Paprika (Brown Sugar Optional) in a small dish. Cover all sides of the pork chunks with the dry spices & herbs, place the pork in an even layer into your pot.
Add 1 cup of water carefully, squeeze the juice of the orange and 2 halved limes, then place the rinds on top of the pork, place the Bay leaves, quartered onion & halved jalapeno on the pork as well.
(Crock pot) Cover & cook on low for 8-10 hours until pork easily shreds.
(Instant pot) Cover, place the valve to “seal” then set the Manual setting for 40 min on high pressure, when the time is up allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then release the rest of the pressure.
Take the pork from the pot & place on a plate to shred with tongs or 2 forks. Taste for salt & adjust if needed for your personal salt level.
(Discard the left over liquid, fruit rinds, onion, leaves & jalapeno)
Place the Carnitas in either a pan to crisp one side or place on a cookie sheet under the broil setting in the over until crisp.
After the Carnitas has crisped, plate then garnish with lime wedges & serve family style with your favorite sides, flour, corn tortillas or chips.