Thanksgiving and fall recipes seem to be the only things going around these days, so here's some pig for reprieve -- not to mention in one its most easy, economical, and satisfying forms.
Our new(ish) apartment needed to be warmed. So we decided we needed 6 lbs of pork butt to do it. And some spam too!
|Spam musubi, realized in bite size form|
The traditional Hawaiian method of cooking kalua pig (also known as kalua "pork" on the mainland) is in an imu, or an oven dug in the ground. At my high school, some classes had fundraisers selling kalua pig instead of say, chocolate or cookies. Someone's dad would go shoot a pig in the mountains, haul it back, and cook it in an imu that had been dug next to the football field. If I remember correctly, they were pretty successful fundraisers.
Whenever I explain kalua pig to people not from Hawaii, there tends to be confusion with the "kalua" part. "Is there Kahlua in it?"
Kahlua - a Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur. The name is derived from the Veracruzan Nahuatl language spoken before Spanish conquest.
Kalua - "to cook in the ground" in the Hawaiian language.
I suppose you could try braising some pork in Kahlua to make Kahlua pig. I think liquid smoke works better though.
While I do have a 3'x10' area at the bottom of my apartment building, it is not suitable for imu digging as it is unfortunately covered with concrete and trash cans and smells way too much like pee than it should (it's enclosed...who pees in back of their apartment??!). But thanks to today's available artificial flavors and the technological feat that is the oven, I was able to make this at home without picking cement or getting so much as a whiff of urine.
I've seen kalua pig recipes that call for pork shoulder and am going to recommend against it. I tried to do a mix of butt and shoulder to keep it from being overly fatty -- MISTAKE. Unless you have several more hours to roast the shoulder longer at a lower temperature, stick with the butt in all its tender glory. And for those who are like "ewww, BUTT!" (have you eaten a hot dog lately?) pork butt, also known as Boston butt is not actually of the butt, but rather a part of the shoulder. So really, I was just unknowingly mixing a superior cut of the shoulder with an inferior cut of the shoulder. Luckily though, the butt fat covered up the dryness of the shoulder.
More information about butts and shoulders can be found here. Do not fear the butt!
|Done cooking, but not shredding|
Oven Roasted Kalua Pig
adapted from so so many sourcesServes about 16 people
5-6 lbs pork butt, a.k.a. Boston butt*2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sea salt (I used orange Ala'ea salt from Hawaii)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Trim excess fat. This is important. I love fat as much as the next maiden of fat but I did not trim enough and, once cooked, was left with big fat globs I had to dig out.
Lay out foil in roasting pan and place pork on top. The entire piece will be enclosed in this piece foil before cooking, so make sure it is big enough to do so.
Score pork with shallow slits, about 1/2 inch deep, all around.
Rub 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon salt into meat (I recommend trying to maneuver this with a spoon because the liquid smoke gets into your skin and makes your hands stink even after multiple washes).
Wrap foil so that meat is completely enclosed.
Roast for about 4.5 hours, or 45 minutes a pound at 325 degrees.
Once cooled to room temperature, shred with two forks.
Dissolve remaining 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke in about 1/2 cup of water. Pour over shredded pork and let stand til absorbed, about 10 minutes.
If you want to add cabbage (highly recommended), throw about 1/4 cup of the pork drippings in a pan, saute chopped cabbage until wilted, and mix in with pork. I used about a half a head of cabbage in the end.