A few weeks ago, my husband and I entered the world of Real Meat Comes From a Farm, Not From Walmart, with the purchase of half a hog.

The good news:  our chest freezer is 100 pounds happier.
The bad news:  I forgot to defrost the freezer before adding said 100 pounds of pork, so… I guess that won’t be happening for a while.

The good news:  this pork is so good, even I can’t mess it up.
The bad news:  I will never be happy with crappy $4 bacon from the store again.

The good news:  I discovered a delicious pork carnitas recipe and developed it to perfection.
The bad news:  the pork shoulder roasts are almost gone already.  Can you order a half hog in roasts?  Because I would definitely do that, just to make carnitas all year.  Well, and I’d probably want the bacon, too.  Because… it’s bacon.

Anyway, these carnitas are great.  Traditionally, they should be fried in lard then braised in a copper pot until tender and amazing, but I don’t have a copper pot (although I do have lard, thanks to the half hog).  The idea of actually putting my slow cooker to use for once in its sad life is a plus, too–who wants to stand over a hot stove in July, anyway?

The options for this stuff are endless–we eat it wrapped in flour tortillas with sauteed peppers and onions, corn and black beans, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, cilantro-lime rice, sour cream, and/or salsa.  It’s sort of like Chipotle, but better.  So dig in and pig out!

Slow Cooker Pork CarnitasSlow Cooker Pork Carnitas (based on this recipe)
Time:  6 1/2 hours (10 minutes active)
Serves 2 people per pound of meat

2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1 tsp. table salt)
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cumin (freshly ground, if possible)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. coriander
1 (3 to 4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into large (about 2-inch) chunks (you can use bone-in, but remember that it will serve fewer people per pound)
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken broth
toppings (see below)

Combine first 5 ingredients (through coriander); set aside.  Sprinkle mixture over pork chunks; turn to coat (I use my hands to really get the rub to stick).  Place bay leaves and broth in slow cooker.  Add pork; cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove pork with tongs and place in a 9×13 baking pan.  Ladle about 1 cup liquid over pork.  Bake, uncovered at 400 F for 20 minutes.  Shred and serve on tortillas with toppings such as sour cream, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocado, sauteed sliced green peppers and onions, corn and black beans, salsa, and cilantro-lime rice (see below).

***Preparation notes:  I usually chop the tomato ahead of time, along with 1 large green bell pepper and 1 large onion (slice into strips).  I start the pork in the late morning (11:30 for a 6:00 dinner).  After 6 hours in the slow cooker, I preheat the oven, start the rice in the slow cooker, put the meat in the baking pan, and heat a large skillet with a little olive oil for the pepper and onion.  While the meat is baking, I sauteé the peppers and onions and chop cilantro for the rice.  I also heat up 1 can each of black beans and corn (or 2 cups each) and slice an avocado.  The rice, meat, and veggies should all finish at about the same time.  Then the meat just needs to be shredded and the rice finished (don’t add the cilantro until it cools a little, or the cilantro will wilt).

Cilantro-Lime Rice

1 cup rice
2 cups water
juice from 1/2 lime (about 1 T.)
2 tsp. olive oil (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (remove stems first, if you like)

Cook rice using your desired method (I use a rice cooker).  Gently toss cooked rice with lime juice and oil, if desired.  Allow to cool slightly, then gently stir in cilantro.

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