Pork Carnitas

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Whenever my husband fixes something around the house, he always jokes ‘if they don’t find you handsome at least they find you handy.’ He’s been telling that joke for years and it’s been ringing in my ears this morning as I sheepishly point out that my Yakima Herald column runs on THURSDAYS not Fridays. Not that you’re waiting on the edge of your seat for a new recipe or blog post but good grief, I could at least get the days right. I think my version of Aaron’s joke should be something along the lines of ‘if you never know what day or time it is, at least you showed up with good things to eat.’ Or something along those lines…

TODAY a special version of Yakima Magazine hit newsstands and it’s all about beer in the Yakima Valley. If you’re local, be sure to check it out, there are great articles this issue. I have a recipe for pork carnitas that have become our family’s go-to recipe anytime we need to feed a crowd. Have friends coming over for dinner? A family barbecue to go to? Carnitas all the way.

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I remember walking into the backyard of my husband’s childhood home for the very first time. It was late spring and hot on a sunny afternoon. The picnic table was covered in a vinyl tablecloth and every square inch of it was loaded down in salads and bowls of chips, platters of watermelon and veggie trays. The yard was set up with ladder golf and lawn chairs formed a circle around a fire pit. Coolers lined up against the house were filled with cold beer and bottled water and music floated over the sound of happy voices, talking and laughing. As afternoon gave way to evening the yard filled up with family and friends, eating and talking, milling around, sitting around the fire late into the night.

These people know how to throw a backyard gathering. And in the almost 15 years I’ve been a part of their family, I can tell you, no one does a party like them. Considering my husband is one of five siblings, they’ve had a lot of practice as they’ve celebrated high school and college graduations, engagements, bridal showers, birthday parties, baby showers and anniversaries over the years.

With summer finally arriving, after what felt like an unending winter and a particularly slow and windy spring, the time to gather in the backyard with friends and family, eat good food and enjoy a beer is now. Yakima Valley is teeming with local breweries and opportunities to try out local hops.  A trip downtown to the Beer Shoppe is always a fun way to try something new and don’t forget to take your growler if you find yourself at Bale Breaker or the newly opened Cowiche Creek Brewery.

In the spirit of backyard gatherings and an ode to my husband’s family; I have two recipes for you. The first is a beer margarita. My mother-in-law handed me an icy cup of this goodness that very first barbecue and it’s been one of my favorite summer drinks ever since. Fair warning, this recipe makes a big pitcher and is meant to be shared so don’t panic when you see the quantities it calls for.  The second is an easy pork caritas recipe. Braised in beer and orange juice with a hint of smoky sweetness from a chile in adobo sauce this is an easy recipe to throw in the oven or a crockpot first thing in the morning before the summer heat hits. Serve with slices of avocado, black beans and your favorite salsa for a crowd-pleasing meal.

Pork Carnitas

  • 5 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 chili in adobo plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, (seeded and finely diced)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Turmeric
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Juice of a lime
  • 12 ounces beer (any light beer will do, I used a corona)

In a large oven-safe pot (or your slow cooker) combine the onion, garlic, spices, chili, orange juice and beer. Whisk ingredients together and then stir in pork. Make sure the pork is well coated in the sauce. Put lid on pot and cook in a 300-degree oven for about 4 hours until the pork is cooked through and starting to fall apart on its own. In a crockpot, this will take about 8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Remove cooked pork from oven and using two fork shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, pour a few tablespoons of the left-over sauce over the meat. Turn the oven to broil (550 degrees) and cook the meat for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, stirring and turning the meat over at least once. The meat should have brown crispy edges and the liquid should be completely dissolved. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Serve with black beans, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese and pickled onions or jalapenos for an extra kick.

Beer Margaritas

  • Two 12 ounce Mexican beers such as Corona, Modelo or Pacifico
  • 1 can frozen limeade concentrate
  • 12 ounces tequila
  • 3 limes, sliced

Fill a large pitcher halfway with ice. Stir in ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. To serve, fill glasses halfway with ice. Pour margaritas into glasses and garnish with fresh lime slices. Enjoy!

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