Being Polish means being in love with pork. It feels like a serious offense or a sin in Poland to refuse to eat pork. Seriously, I have never met a person in Poland, other than my vegetarian friends, who wouldn’t eat that meat. So, after I moved to California I had to find some pork! Although it isn’t America’s meat of choice, it wasn’t hard to find because of the “omnipresent” Mexican cuisine. I was quickly introduced to Carnitas and it soon became one of my favorite ways to roast pork. I also fell in love with Mexican pork Al Pastor but that’s a completely different pork dish.
I love Carnitas because the pork is succulent and flavorful. Traditionally it’s made with orange juice, Mexican oregano, cumin, chili and even a bit of cinnamon. All versions are very good provided the meat is properly marbled with fat and cooked at the right temperature with enough time in the oven. Properly done Carnitas should be made of meat that has a rather high fat content, like pork butt shoulder with a wide strip of fat on the top (click here to see what I’ve used for tacos in my pictures). Despite the long cooking time, at least 5 hours, it will stay moist on the inside and easily come off the bone. The meat should simply fall off with a fork. Outside should be super flavorful and little crispy. You should be able to tear the meat off the bone with your fingers and it should pretty much melt in your mouth.
My version a la Food Polka is a result of my experiments with slow roasted pork roasts. Also, I use marjoram – an herb that is a staple of the Polish cuisine. Marjoram isn’t a very popular herb in the US and the Mexican cuisine uses some; but, not as liberally as in the Polish. I also prepare Carnitas as a big roast while most traditional recipes cut meat in smaller pieces.
So here it goes – the Food Polka’s version of Carnitas based on a large amount of dried marjoram as a tribute to my Polish presence in SoCal. Pure pride and pleasure. I have never met anyone who would turn this pork down. Highly recommend!
Carnitas a’la Food Polka
Ingredients (for about 8 people):
- 5-6 lbs pork roast, fat and bone (pork butt shoulder with a thick strip of fat on the lower side)
- 3 tablespoons marjoram
- 3 teaspoons of ground marjoram
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 6 teaspoons minced, dried garlic
- 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 flat tablespoons of fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 head of garlic
- Peel the garlic and chop into small pieces.
- Mix in a small dish all the ingredients to obtain a uniform marinade.
- Spread the meat on a large piece of aluminum foil (a size that is sufficient to completely wrap the meat).
- Rub the marinade in thoroughly; let it get in every nook and cranny of the roast; tightly wrap the foil and leave in the fridge for about 48 hours.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator, unwrap the foil and place together with foil (fat layer up) inside a baking pan (a size that the whole roast can easily fit into); allow to stand for about 2 hours at room temperature.
- Preheat oven to a temperature of approximately 360 degrees; insert it into the middle shelf of the oven and roast uncovered for about 1 hour; after that reduce the temperature to about 260 degrees and bake for the next 5-6 hours.
- After 5-6 hours again raise the temperature to about 370 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes. The roast should fall apart when you poke it with a fork or a knife. The inside should be moist and juicy and the outside crunchy and dark (blackened).