What is it about pulled pork? Only a couple of years ago if you had asked anyone if they would like some slow roast pork shoulder you probably would have received a response similar to 'some what?' Then came Man vs Food and the UK was introduced to authentic BBQ. Now I'm not talking the stereotypical British BBQ with burnt Denny sausages I'm talking southern USA style with low and slow meat cooked over various types of wood. The popularity of pulled pork has since exploded with every major fast food outlet offering their variation of the UK's new favourite meat. McDonald's, KFC, Subway and even Pringles jumped on the pulled pork bandwagon. So with the humble pork shoulder being more popular than ever I wanted to make something different than the typical pulled pork bap slathered in sweet sticky sauce. Enter Carnitas, Mexico's version of the pulled pork sandwich.
I have smoked many a pork shoulder for up to 8 hours but it takes time and attention to ensure the meat is continually smoked within the correct temperature range, a luxury which isn't possible during midweek, therefore, I opted to use a slow cooker. It is an excellent method of cooking and all is needed is to quickly sear the meat before adding to the cooker. Granted you don't get the fantastic smokey flavour present when BBQ'd but its convenience makes up for it. I usually put it on before I go to work and leave for 8 hours returning home to find excellently tender meat that falls off the bone.
- Pork Shoulder 1Kg
- Sea Salt 2 Tablespoons
- Smoked Paprika 2 Tablespoons
- Olive Oil 2 Tablespoons
- Chicken Stockpot 2
- Bay leaf 3
- Water 1 Pint
- Sour Cream
- Fresh Coriander
- Red Cabbage 1/4
- White Onion 1
- Apple Cider Vinegar Half a cup
- Tacos (Soft or Hard)
- Applewood Cheddar
- Limes 2
- Hot Sauce
The first step is to add the first layer of flavour before cooking the pork so simply drizzle with olive oil and add rub two tablespoons of smoked paprika and sea salt into the pork shoulder.
The next step is to sear the meat which you can do in a normal pan or on a BBQ as I did. This step isn't for sealing in juices as many presume instead it imparts an excellent depth of flavour into the meat by caramelising the surface which enhances the savoury meat flavour. Simply sear on the highest heat possible for 2 minutes per side.
Once sealed simply place in the crock pot along with one pint of boiling water, two stock cubes and the bay. Put the setting on low, place the lid and wait for 8 hours, simple.
After eight hours the pork should resemble something like the below image. Remove the meat to a separate dish and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
As the pork is resting make the pickled red cabbage and onion which will impart a much needed acidic flavour which will cut through the fattiness of the pork. Simply finely chop both ingredients and mix well with the cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
After impatiently waiting for 20 minutes get two forks and pull the pork apart which should be extremely easy and hugely satisfying. If you want to make crackling for the tacos, which is highly recommended, carefully peel back the skin and place on some kitchen roll to absorb the excess moisture.
The crackling works well as it has excellent flavour but more importantly it will add a crunchy texture to each taco. To make the cracking remove the excess soft fat from the underside of the skin and pat dry with kitchen roll. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place under a grill on high heat and cook until crisp.
A great tip to ensure the pork stays moist is to spoon on 3 or 4 tablespoons of the cooking stock which will also ensure it doesn't dry out if you need to reheat at a later time.
Serve on warm soft tacos with the picked red cabbage and onion along with sour cream, hot sauce, fresh coriander, shards of pork crackling and a squeeze of lime juice.