Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kalua Pork

Nope, that's not a typo. This isn't pork made with Kahlua. This is kalua pork, the Hawaiian roasted pork served at luaus. Traditionally, a whole salted pig is put into a pit filled with hot rocks and banana leaves and covered so that it can cook all day. I got to go to Hawaii years and years ago for a family reunion (relatives from Taiwan and the US met halfway) and still remember loving this dish. The pork was moist, fall-off-the-bone tender, and had a depth of flavor that I thought could only be delivered via cooking in a pit for hours and hours.

Luckily for those of us who don't have easy access to whole pigs, pits, hot rocks, and banana leaves, you can make kalua pork in a slow cooker with only 2 ingredients: pork butt and smoked salt! The first you can get from almost any grocery store; just make sure it'll fit into your slow cooker. Apparently, pork butt is actually the same thing as pork shoulder, so either would work.

Smoked Hawaiian Sea Salt

I found smoked Hawaiian sea salt at Narrin's Spice and Salt in Cleveland's West Side Market. I had actually bought this a couple of years ago but never figured out what to use it in until now. This particular product has a blend of Hawaiian black and pink salt along with regular white sea salt. If you can't find smoked sea salt, you can also use liquid smoke with regular sea salt.

Kalua Pork
makes about 6 servings

2.5 lbs. pork butt (or shoulder)
2 tablespoons smoked Hawaiian sea salt

Pork Shoulder

Using a steak knife, poke the pork all over and then rub the salt all over.

Kalu Pork

Place the pork in a slow cooker and cook on low for 20 hours, turning once halfway through. Pork is done when it can be easily shredded with a fork.

Kalu Pork

That's it! With only two ingredients and two lines of instructions, you'll be surprised how flavorful the finished product is. During the slow cooking process, all the fat starts to render out of the meat so that at the end, it's cooking in its own juices, a sort of pork confit if you will. While I wouldn't consider the top half of the meat (that isn't sitting in the juices) to be dry, it is drier and less salty than the bottom half. I tried to turn the meat again when it was done to try to even it out, but the pork was so tender, I wasn't sure I could get it flipped without totally mangling it. If I had had more time, I would've shredded all the meat and served it with the reserved juices on the side for people to add if they wanted. Instead, I just brought the whole thing to a potluck and served it with some shredded cabbage sauteed with garlic and rice, letting people shred off as much as they wanted.


Kalu Pork

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8 comments:

  1. Looks and sounds great - 20 hours to cook, though, wow!

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  2. Any ideas where to find the Hawaiian sea salt in MA? I want to try this!

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  3. Chey - You can probably cook it for a few hours less; 20 hours just worked out for my schedule. I think I also read another recipe where they cooked the pork on high for only 6-8 hours.

    Kristin - You could try Christina's Spices in Inman Square. Whole Foods and/or Trader Joe's may always have Hawaiian sea salt (although probably not smoked). I'd be happy to give you some from my own stash though; I doubt I'll ever use it all up!

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  4. I do it the pink salt+liquid smoke way. :) Pink salt from Whole Foods, and liquid smoke from ... well, anywhere.

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  5. Wow, that's awesome! I think the meat is also called "Boston Butt" sometimes, which sounds really funny! I'm been wanting to try to use my slow cooker in new ways. My slow cooker is a bit bigger, though, so I fear the meat will dry out more. Unless if I buy a bigger hunk of meat . .

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  6. You can definitely try this with a bigger piece of meat. Most of the recipes I looked at used 5-6 lbs. And I agree, "Boston butt" does sound funny!

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  7. If using the salt + liquid smoke method, how much smoke would you add?

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