At the grocery store last week, I spotted some cut up portions of raw pork belly. I’ve never cooked pork belly before so I immediately picked up a piece. After searching the web for recipes, I decided to make Homesick Texan’s carnitas. Carnitas are usually made with pork shoulder but I went ahead with the recipe anyways.
I first scaled down the recipe by 1/3. Originally, I intended to use fresh squeezed orange juice but the orange I was planning to juice disappeared. I instead substituted with a mixed fruit and vegetable juice I found in the fridge. I wouldn’t drink the stuff but it worked out quite well for the carnitas.
Alas, I initially did not add enough water. The scaled amount of water covered only 1/3 of the meat because I used a wide frying pan. With little experience in water based cooking, I turned up the heat and let the meat simmer for less than a hour. When I checked again, most of the water had evaporated, resulting in the pork belly frying in its own fat more than one hour ahead of schedule. I quickly added lots of water until it covered 2/3-3/4 of the meat.
Although the recipe calls for simmering the meat uncovered, I decided to partially cover the pan to slow down the evaporation. I waited about 1.5 hours more for the meat to continue to simmer. Then I removed the cover, raised the heat to medium flame, and let the liquid evaporate. After the water reduced, I turned the meat around to let all the sides fry in the rendered fat.
The final carnitas had a rich, golden brown color. I was actually quite amazed at the color. The simmering liquid, after some time, looked very much like soy sauce! The AGEs formed from the caramelized fruit juice sugar is a health concern but I wouldn’t worry about occasional consumption.
Though the carnitas were slightly tough, probably due to the initial mistake with the amount of water, they tasted very flavorful-especially the yummy fat. Those carnitas were the first carnitas I’ve ever eaten so I don’t know how they compare to more pro carnitas. My tastebuds, on the other hand, simply said, “awesome!”. My mom and sister (wheat and sugar eaters) each tried one piece and said they liked the flavor. However, they considered the meat too fatty since they dislike fatty meat in general. Boo hoo. I’ll convince them one day.
- pork shoulder or belly
- enough water to cover 2/3-3/4 of the meat
- 1/3 cup fruit juice per 450 g meat (this is the recipe’s ratio but I used 390 g meat with 1/3 cup juice, which was fine)
- 0.67 teaspoon sea salt per 450 g meat
Cut the meat in sizes of your choice. Place all ingredients in cooking pot (there must be a better word) with thick enough bottom (I used a frying pan but the author of the original recipe used a dutch oven, which is probably a wiser choice). Bring to a boil , lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered or partially covered, for 2 hours. Turn up the heat to medium and let the water evaporate, moving the meat around to prevent it from adhering to the pot. When the water has evaporated, flip the meat around so it can brown evenly. Serve and enjoy!