Rosie goes south of the border for carnitas

By on March 30, 2014

049The Hawthornes have always enjoyed trying other cuisines. We stir fry quite often. My son has requested miang kham, a traditional Thai street food, which I successfully produced. I’ve learned how to make a pretty mean bowl of pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. I can whip up a soufflé with the best of them. And I’m always ready to go south of the border for carnitas.

Carnitas means “little meats.” For pork aficionados, carnitas are a favorite in Mexico, particularly in the Michoacan state, whose carnitas are considered the best.

Traditionally, carnitas are chunks of pork fried in large copper vats filled with lard. In the best interests of my arteries, I’m eschewing the lard and opting for another technique for cooking my carnitas.

But first, what type of meat does one chose for carnitas?

I’m using a Boston butt, or pork butt, for my carnitas. Despite its name, the Boston butt is the meaty section from the upper shoulder of the pig, not the rear of the pig. Pork shoulders, butts, and picnic “hams” are all part of the front leg and shoulder of the hog.

Whole shoulders consist of the butt and the picnic shoulder or picnic “ham,” if it’s been cured. This is not a true ham, which comes from the hind leg. Boston butt is a cut from the thicker, upper section of the shoulder where there is more intense marbling. It is an excellent choice for pulled pork and barbecue.

Shoulder cuts, including picnic shoulder, are from the thinner, triangular shaped end of the shoulder.

Both butt and shoulder cuts need long, slow cooking and are excellent for barbecue and stew meat. Back in the day (18th century), Boston butchers learned to cut the pigs’ shoulders in a certain way, separating the butt from the picnic, and packed them into barrels called “butts,” for transport, hence the Boston butt cut.

Now, let’s prepare carnitas. As I said, I’m not preparing traditional carnitas fried in lard. I’m going to slow-cook the pork until succulent and tender and the water is gone. Then, I’ll take it one further step by caramelizing the pork in its own fat, essentially frying the meat into beautiful crisp, browned morsels.

Carnitas Ingredients
1 Boston butt – 4-5 pounds
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp Kosher salt

I started out with a 4-pound Boston butt and I left the fat on it. If it’s bone-in, remove the bone. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Put the pork cubes in a large pot and add the garlic, lime juice, orange juice, cumin, and salt. Toss by hand to coat meat, then add in just enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 2 hours, uncovered, without disturbing.

After the 2 hours, most of the liquid will have evaporated. Increase heat to medium high and cook uncovered for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated and only the rendered fat (lard) remains. Keep turning the meat until it is browned all over. The orange and lime juices help tenderize the meat, giving you fork-tender pork pieces. The meat is pull-apart tender inside from the 2-hour citrus sauna and it’s browned on the outside from the pork fat. Transfer meat to a bowl.

I always want to get every bit of flavor out of whatever I’m cooking, so I left the pan on medium low heat, added in about 1/3 cup of beef broth, and scraped up all the goodie bits in the bottom of the pan. Let it reduce a bit to intensify the flavors. If you wanted to add a splash of a nice cabernet sauvignon or a merlot, I certainly wouldn’t stop you. Pour that reduced, concentrated yumminess over the carnitas.

There are several ways you can serve serve carnitas:


In a fried corn taco with a side of your favorite coleslaw and/or salsa.

On tortilla chips.

As a taquito, rolled up in a corn tortilla and deep fried, with salsa, cilantro, and a cheese sauce. Or if you want to go rogue, as I did, go multi-cultural and wrap them in an eggroll wrapper and fry.

Or you can serve them in a tortilla bowl with salsa, crumbled Cotija cheese, and shredded lettuce.

Please visit with Rosie at for more recipes and kitchen tricks. I’m sure you’ll find something that will whet your appetite and satisfy your palate. If you have any culinary questions, feel free to ask Rosie at I’ll do my best to answer.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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