They Cooked Carnitas in the Dirt?

26 01 2010

Carnitas, which means, “little meats,” in Spanish are a traditional Mexican dish. This slow-roasted shredded pork meat can be used in tacos, tamales, burritos or by itself with rice and beans. Traditional underground ovens have been used by many different cultures to cook slow-roasted pork including Native Americans, Hawaiians, Polynesians, Australians, Chileans and Fijians.

Carnitas are usually pork shoulder slow-cooked either in simmering lard, which is the traditional way, or in spiced broth, which is the contemporary version due to the health-conscious climate we are living in today. Once the collagen in the meat has been broken down, the meat falls apart into tender, flavorful shreds and is ready to eat.

Healthier cooking methods including braising and roasting, have become more popular in recent years, but tend to produce a less savory result.  Citrus juice, usually lime, can also be used to cook carnitas in place of milk. Many Mexican Chicanos use this method.

In Hawaiian culture, the pig was cooked in an underground pit or oven called an “imu.” The slow-roasted pork was tender and moist like carnitas today, and was served in baskets made from coconut fronds or banana leaves.

Slow-roasted pork is just like it sounds…slloooww. The meat can be wrapped in aluminum foil and left to steam for three hours or more depending on the size of the feast. Because of the amount of time and labor it takes to prepare the “imu,” most underground cooking is saved for special ceremonies and celebrations.

An earth oven in Australia is called a “lovo” and in New Zealand, a “hangi.” Traditionally, men were the ones to build the lovo. Many people still cook with them for special occasions but now have to get permission from a fire prevention officer or local authority to make lovos in their backyards.

Whether cooked traditionally underground or in a pot on a stove, carnitas have been a long-lasting favorite for many cultures. Playa Grill is proud to serve all natural slow-roasted pork in menu items such as Tacos De La Calle, Nachos La Playa, Quesadillas, Merry Piglets Sliders, Carnitas Burrito and more!




One response

6 02 2010

This is really cool!! I had no idea where carnitas came from!

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