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Carnitas Caseras (Home-Cooked Carnitas) Tacos

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 40 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Servings 8

Ingredients

for the carnitas:

  • 2 tablespoons lard or oil
  • 3 pounds (1.4kg) boneless, skinless pork shoulder
  • ½ medium white onion, coarsely chopped (~1 cup)
  • 4-5 fresh marjoram sprigs (or ½ teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano)
  • 4-5 fresh thyme sprigs (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium orange, cut into 8 pieces (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

for the tortillas:

  • 2 cups (250gms) masa harina (instant corn masa flour) (I use Maseca brand)
  • cups (360ml) warm water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

for the carnitas:

  • Cut the pork into 2-inch (5cm) cubes.
  • Heat the lard or oil in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Fry the meat to lightly brown all sides (about 10 minutes). Fry it in 2 batches if necessary.
  • Add the onion and return all the meat to the pan if you browned it in 2 batches. Fry for another 10 minutes, until the pork is well browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the marjoram, thyme, bay leaves, orange chunks, milk, salt, and pepper.
  • Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. If cooking over a campfire, move the pot to a cooler part of the fire so that it just keeps cooking at a nice gentle bubble. There will be a lot of liquid in the pot.
  • Remove the lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about another 30 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the herb stems, bay leaves, and oranges, and scoop out or drain off some of the excess fat accumulated at the top of the liquid.
  • Increase the heat (or move the pot to a hotter part of the fire) and fry the meat until the edges get dark and crispy.
    If there is too much liquid in the pot for it all to evaporate and let the meat get crispy, remove the meat chunks to another skillet or drain off the liquid, and then cook them until crispy-edged.
  • Use two forks to pull the pork chunks apart into thick rope-like shreds. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Keep the carnitas warm and covered so the meat doesn't dry out. Serve in tortilla shells with your favourite toppings.
  • Serves 8.

to make the tortillas:

  • Stir together the corn masa flour, water, oil, and salt to make a soft dough.
  • Form the dough into 16 balls, keeping them covered with plastic or a damp cloth to keep them from drying out.
  • Line a tortilla press with 2 sheets of thick plastic (from a ziptop freezer bag). Place each ball between the sheets of plastic on the tortilla press and press until the tortilla measures about 5½ inches in diameter.
  • Preheat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Gently peel the plastic wrap off the tortilla and quickly and evenly flip the tortilla onto the hot griddle or skillet. Fry for about 1 minute on each side, until a few brown specks appear.
  • Wet a cotton towel or napkin and wring it to remove as much moisture as possible. Keep the stack of cooked tortillas wrapped in the damp towel in a covered container to keep them from drying out and keep them warm until serving time.
  • Makes 16 small tortillas.

Notes

The acids in the milk and orange pieces help tenderize the meat and add a rich flavour. The sugars in both also help with crisping and browning the meat at the end.
Carnitas Caseras makes wonderful tacos. Use the shredded meat to fill corn tortillas that have been heated in a hot dry pan. Serve with guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled onions, and sour cream (or Mexican crema or crumbled queso fresco) to add to the tacos as each person wishes.
If making the homemade tortillas, fry them while the meat is simmering and keep them warm until serving time.