Posted August 11, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
“He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians.”
― Gabriel García Márquez,
Two weeks ago, I dangled a carrot that looked a lot like carnitas …
… and we got enough bites to accept the challenge. But you all should know you’re just stoking the fire.
Jim just loves these DIY’s while I prefer to sweep the mundane details under the rug.
Yet, I understand his enthusiasm. Creative solutions and efficient micro-equipment have replaced the grunt work of our old conventional life. Efficiency is Jim’s happy place.
But, food is just so personal!
It’s our kitchen. I’d rather open our medicine cabinet to public scrutiny.
Okay, I store weird things in the freezer that I’d rather not explain and might not really understand myself until I need it.
And, ever since the opening of Hard Knox Brewery, I’ve been working through a rather odd obsession with pickled eggs … and this tangy sulfurous smell wafts from the refer door.
Learning to feed ourselves while mobile is all part of LIB. It’s fun to experiment and test exotic foods and recipes – to adapt our eccentric tastes to a small galley kitchen.
But why carnitas? Now?!
Silly us. Canada with all its rich diversity is not a Mexican food mecca.
We thought … Well, because so many Canadians winter in Baja and on the Sea of Cortez, maybe Mexican culture would be kind of a thing here.
Well, des colores, yes …
… but Mexican food, not so much.
Corn tortillas, cilantro, habanero, avocado … are rare and pricey in Alberta. But, fear not, we’re far from starving.
We could live on Canadian cherries …
… and the doughnuts here aren’t your average – they’re Frickin’ Delights! – a destination vegan doughnut shop here in Devon.
But, so far, the LIB kitchen is the only place we’ve found good Mexican food and vibe even though only one of us has cred …
Okay! So, let’s get this fiesta started!
We need fresh pork shoulder.
How big? Bigger than a breadbox but not as big as this one we bought at a wonderful Mexican market in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
But first, the University of Alberta Botanic Garden is on the way to the market – so, let’s stop there and view the late summer bloom.
Beautiful! Now, for the groceries.
About 3 ½ pounds provides more than enough carnitas for four. Keep in mind that tacos and burritos require little meat. With tortillas and all the fixings, three ounces of cooked carnitas per person is enough for us.
This picnic roast at the Devon market is perfect for four.
I wash and drain the meat over my Surpahs Roll-Up Rack.
Next, I carve off the fat and membrane …
and carve the trimmed meat into two-to-three inch chunks.
I place all of the fat and bone trimmings into the bottom of the Instant Pot liner and place the pork chunks in a separate bowl.
Then, I season the pork chunks generously with kosher salt and coarse ground pepper and massage the seasoning into the chunks.
Prepare The Marinade
- 1 large head of raw garlic, crushed.
- 1 medium onion or half a large onion, rough chop
- 3 jalapeños plus seeds, rough chop
- 1 large orange – the zest and juice
- 1 heaping teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 tablespoons of tamari, soy or Maggi sauce
1 cup of broth (chicken, beef, veggie – it doesn’t matter) is set aside and does not go into the marinade. It will be used later.
In another bowl, I mix the marinade ingredients together and then I pour it over the meat chunks, stirring periodically to ensure even distribution.
Over the next 30 minutes, I stir the meat once or twice as it marinades. Soon, all of the liquid is absorbed into the meat.
Now, I pile the pork chunks on top of the fat trimmings in the Instant Pot and pour a cup of broth over all. (I thawed out some pork broth left over from a previous batch of carnitas – that’s what I mean about keeping weird stuff in my freezer – but store-bought chicken or veggie broth will do fine).
Once the lid is in place, I set the Instant Pot on 30 minutes of High Pressure.
Because this will take about an hour, we go for a campground stroll on the Saskatchewan.
We arrive home just as the high-pressure cooking is done.
I turn off the Instant Pot and allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes – then, I force the remaining pressure to release and remove the lid.
At this point, the pork is hot and loose.
So, carefully, I transfer the carnitas into a bowl to cool.
This a good time to taste-test.
If the meat is not seasoned enough, I give them a light sprinkle of salt.
Now, I remove the fat chunks which will be discarded.
Next, I carefully strain the fluid into a separate container and allow it cool before I place it in the refrigerator overnight.
As the pork chunks cool they will solidify for easy handling on the grill tomorrow. Also, chilling before grilling prevents overcooking.
And chilling the liquids will separate the lard from the broth so it can be easily skimmed and used for basting.
It’s a warm night, so we have a cold dinner of chicken salad pepper boats and raw – fresh and spicy – homemade green pea hummus made from fresh peas in the shell which we picked up at the Farmer’s Market.
The next morning, we grab a box of Frickin’ Delights and drive to Edmonton to visit the Muttart Conservatory.
What a great day!
Back home, we get to work on dinner.
I skim the fat off the top of the base and warm it on the stove and add enough olive oil to the fat to make 1/2 cup. My work here is done.
From here, we will need beer, fire, Latino music and a guy.
Jim sets the grill on high.
Then, he dips each chunk into the basting fat and places it on the grill,
… turning each with tongs and basting until all sides have a nice char.
With plenty of left-overs, meals will be simple to prepare for the next few days.
Buen provecho, eh!