Forget Chipotle. Or Qdoba. Or any other tex-mex restaurant. You can make delicious carnitas at home using either an oven or crock pot. I give you both versions below.
This recipe makes enough for leftovers and then some. I typically freeze the leftovers to make posole or chili at a later time. I can safely say for my family of 4, I can get at least 3 full meals out of this recipe, making it worth the full day of cooking and price of the pork shoulder.
Additionally, the recipe calls for dried chilis. You can usually find these in the produce section of the grocery store (or in the ethnic section of the store). If you are lucky enough to live near a Mexican market, you can find all you need there. The Spice House and Penzey's Spices both sell dried chilis, too, if you want to order online.
To grind chilis and whole spices, you need a coffee or spice grinder. The flavor is much more intense when you grind your own chilis compared to the ground spices found at the store. To clean the spice grinder after each use, grind white rice to a powder in the grinder. It should pick up most of the remaining spice.
Toppings for the carnitas:
The night before cooking, dry rub the pork shoulder. In a small bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons chili powder and 1 tablespoon salt. Rub the entire pork shoulder with the spice mixture. Place in a dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 300ºF.
Place the pork in a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Add the dried chili peppers, oranges, garlic, peppercorns, Juniper berries, cumin, and 2 teaspoons salt. Pour in enough water to cover the pork should by 3/4. Put the lid on (or cover with foil). Bake for 4-5 hours or until the pork is very tender and shreds easily.
Crockpot method (the perfect method for those who work):
Place the pork in a large crockpot. Add the dried chili peppers, oranges, garlic, peppercorns, Juniper berries, cumin, and 2 teaspoons salt. Pour in enough water to cover the pork should by 3/4. Put the lid on. Cook on low for about 8 hours or until the pork is very tender and shreds easily.
Finish the carnitas:
Remove the pork from the liquid. Strain the liquid (discard the solids) and pour it into a Dutch oven or other large pot. Skim off some of the fat that has accumulated on top. Allow the pork to cool slightly (maybe 20 minutes). Shred the pork with forks (or with your fingers) and add it to the pot with the cooking liquid. Season with the remaining seasonings. Add salt if needed. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or so.
Serve with the toppings. Freeze leftovers for up to 6 months.
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