The sandwich was absolutely incredible. The pork was mouth-wateringly juicy and flavorful, and the crispy bits of skin gave the sandwich great crunch. Seriously, one bite of that sandwich was enough to induce food nirvana.
After coming home from the festival I had a massive craving for pork, so I turned to a family favorite–a recipe for kalua pig. My mom gave me this recipe a few years ago and I have made it so many times now that I have it memorized (plus it helps that the recipe only uses THREE ingredients). This recipe cheats by cooking the pork in a slow cooker, instead of slow roasting it in a hole in the ground. Granted, the traditional way is preferable, but I don’t really have a place to go digging a hole in my backyard to roast my own pig (darn!). The only hard part about this recipe is that you have to plan ahead because the meat cooks for 16 to 20 hours (depending on how hot your low setting is on your slow cooker, you may or may not need the full 20 hours). To make the kalua pig, you use a large pork butt roast (also known as pork shoulder). (As a side note, the whole fact that this cut of meat is called pork butt cracks me up, since it’s really a shoulder cut. I think someone needed an anatomy lesson…) The great thing about this cut of meat is that it is usually one of the cheapest cuts of meat. It’s perfect for slow cooking because it is marbled with lots of fat which helps it keep the meat moist and tender while cooking. Ok, so you’ve got your roast.
Now all you’re going to do is stab it all over with the tip of a sharp knife.
Now you’re going to rub some Hawaiian Sea Salt into it. I like to use a combination of Hawaiian Black Sea Salt and Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (Alaea), but you can use whatever kind of coarse sea salt you like or can find. The black sea salt gets its color from lava. The lava adds not only color, also minerals and activated charcoal, giving it a smokey earthy flavor. The red sea salt (also known as alaea salt) gets its color from, alaea, or volcanic baked red clay. Alaea enriches the salt with iron oxide and gives the salt its reddish pink color. The flavor is slightly nutty and sweet.
Then you’ll drizzle a bit of liquid smoke flavoring over the meat, cover the slow cooker, put it on low heat, and forget about it for 16 to 20 hours, turning it once during the cooking time. THAT’S IT! Don’t be tempted to add any additional liquid–you don’t need it. The fat in the roast will provide more than enough liquid, I promise. **Note: For this size of roast, you will need a 6-qt. slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker, use a smaller roast and reduce the amount of the other ingredients accordingly. As I mentioned above, you may or may not need the full 20 hours of cooking time, depending on how hot your low setting is on your slow cooker. When I use my slow cooker, it takes about 18 hours. *UPDATE: With my newer slow cooker my cooking time is less, as the lowest temperature is higher. With newer slow cookers I find that a cooking range of 8 to 12 hours on low heat works nicely.
When it’s done, you’ll be able to easily shred the meat with two forks.
The meat is smokey and flavorful and wonderful eaten with rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes. I served mine with some kurigohan (Japanese chestnut rice)–the slightly sweet and nutty rice pairs wonderfully with the smokey savory pork.
Slow Cooker Kalua Pig
Makes 12-14 servings
5-6 pound pork butt roast
1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (coarse sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1. Pierce the pork roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Place the roast in a large slow cooker and rub the salt all over the meat. Drizzle the liquid smoke over the meat.
2. Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low Heat for 16 to 20 hours**, turning the roast over once half-way through the cooking time. Depending on how hot your low setting is on your slow cooker, you may or may not need the full 20 hours. When the meat easily shreds with a fork it is ready.
3. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred with two forks, adding drippings from the slow cooker as needed to moisten the meat.
*Note: Don’t be tempted to add any additional liquid–you don’t need it. The fat in the roast will provide more than enough liquid. For this size of roast, you will need a 6-qt. slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker, use a smaller roast and reduce the amount of the other ingredients accordingly.
** Newer slow cookers have higher low temperature settings which decreases the cooking time. With these cookers I have found that a cooking range of 8 to 12 hours on low heat works nicely.