The most famous recipe for carnitas is traditionally prepared in the style of Michoacán state in Mexico: salted pork pieces are confited in huge copper vats, then roughly chopped and served as a delicious taco filling. This braising technique is the home cook’s solution to achieving a similar amazing result.

Serves
6

Preparation

30min

Cooking

2hr
30min

Skill level

Mid
By
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Ingredients

Carnitas

  • 1 kg boneless pork shoulder, fat on (see Note)
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp rendered pork or duck fat, to braise, plus 2 tbsp extra, to serve

Salsa de arbol

  • 6–10 arbol chillies (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp salt

Quick pickled cabbage

  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage (see Note)
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 100 ml white vinegar
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander

Squash blossom salad

  • 100 g salad greens, such as baby spinach or rocket
  • 12 squash blossoms, cleaned, stems and stamens removed
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup toasted hulled pumpkin seeds

To serve

  • 600 g warm corn tortillas

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Pickling time 30 minutes

To prepare the pork, cut meat into 3 cm cubes. Place in a medium saucepan. Add remaining ingredients, except the extra rendered fat, and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes or until the liquid has almost completely reduced. Move pork around the pan, ensuring the pieces are evenly covered with glaze. When the meat begins to stick, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, use hands to roughly shred the meat, or roughly chop if a less stringy texture is desired.

To prepare the salsa, wipe the chillies clean, then warm them gently in a pan with the vegetable oil. Fry the chillies softly for 10–20 seconds, until they are lightly fragrant and darken slightly.

In a small saucepan, cover the tomatoes with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 4–5 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft, then remove from the heat.

Place the chillies in a blender and add the tomatoes, garlic and salt, then enough of the water from boiled tomato as needed to cover the chillies. Blend until smooth, then place in a bowl.

To prepare the quick pickled cabbage, mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

To prepare the squash blossom salad, toss the greens and squash blossoms together and place in a serving dish. Dress lightly with vinegar and olive oil, season and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

To serve, heat 1 tbsp of extra rendered fat in a 28 cm heavy-based saucepan until starting to smoke, then add half of the seasoned shredded pork. Cook over medium-high heat until crispy on all sides (but not too crispy, as cooking it too long will dry out the meat). Repeat with remaining fat and pork. Serve immediately with warm corn tortillas, salsa de arbol, pickled cabbage and squash blossom salad.

 

Note
• Pork neck makes a great substitute for shoulder if shoulder is unavailable.
• If chile de arbol is unavailable, substitute with a dried red Indian-style chilli.  
• Use a mandoline for the cabbage, to ensure it is sliced very finely.