So I mentioned last week that my family recently came home from Hawaii. Yes…my family. Before we went, pretty much the first question everyone asked was, “Are you bringing your kids?!” And when I told them that we were, their reactions ranged from horror to befuddlement to speechlessness to asking us why or telling us they were sorry.
It’s okay. We probably were crazy, and true, it wasn’t a the Hawaiian fantasy of lying on the beach sipping tropical drinks. We went to Target a lot…
(turns out the groceries there were a lot cheaper than the tourist trap we got sucked into our first night there) and had an amazing time at the beach.
And then there was the time in Volcano National Park when we thought we were going for a little stroll (literally…with a stroller) and realized we were hiking down into the crater of a dormant volcano. Stupid stupid stupid.
Good thing it was awesome. Good thing my husband and I were still speaking when he hauled the stroller a couple of miles back up the inside of the crater and I hauled our 23 pound baby back up.
It’s kind of impossible to convey how enormous that thing was–even if I told you those little dots in there were people (which they are), it’s hard to get an idea of how tiny we felt inside. My kids, who live in a bayou and have never hiked before, were total naturals and rocked it (I love my kids a lot, but for me to call them naturals at physical activity is a big deal…their talents are more, um, cerebral in nature) and never complained once, which is way more than I can say about myself and my childhood hiking experiences.
On the east side of the island, we chatted with a lot of hippies, saw a lot of these…
and ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.
Kalua pork, like shave ice, is just kind of something that happens in Hawaii wherever you go, but it can vary drastically in quality, which can range from cafeteria-style mystery meat to shreds of smoky, tender-crispy deliciousness. Kalua pork is traditionally the meat from a whole pig that’s been roasted in the ground, but since most of us don’t have access to whole pigs or pig-sized roasting pits, we resort to other methods of cooking.
I’ve been making this recipe since I was a newlywed, but I hadn’t made it in years when Sara called me in a state of wonder saying that she’d had Kalua pork cooked in a crockpot and it tasted like the real thing and I kind of kicked myself for going so long without this amazingly easy meat candy. So today’s the day. And in case you’re wondering what you can do with it, don’t worry, I’ve got about 733 things I ate in Hawaii that involve Kalua pork that I’m trying to replicate at home.
You’re going to need a boneless pork shoulder (boneless pork butt roast), Hawaiian pink sea salt (if you can find it, smoked Hawaiian sea salt is even better), and hickory-flavored liquid smoke (if you can’t find smoked sea salt).
If you live in an area with a significant Polynesian population (like many places in Utah), you may be able to find Hawaiian sea salt in a regular grocery store.
I also believe World Market carries it in all its stores, so if you live close to one, head over there. I would either have to order mine online (like from Amazon). If pink sea salt just isn’t in the cards, regular sea salt from a regular grocery store will do, pig. It’ll do.
Rinse the pork roast and pat it dry. Pierce the entire roast with a fork.
Sprinkle with the sea salt (start with about a little less than a tablespoon and see how far it gets you–you can add a little more to make sure your roast is salted enough, and you can always add more after it cooks)
and sprinkle generously with the liquid smoke (about 1 tablespoon, more if you have a very large roast). Rub the salt and the liquid smoke into the roast.
Place the roast in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat is brown shreds easily with a fork.
Remove the roast from the pan and place it in a serving dish or on a serving platter. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Shred the roast, discarding any large pieces of fat. Drizzle enough of the cooking liquid over the pork to re-moisten it and keep it from drying out (I actually preferred the dark, non-fatty liquid on bottom to the liquid fat on top–it’s way more flavorful). Serve with any combination of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni salad, and/or fresh fruits and vegetables (or a green salad). You can also treat it like smoked pork and eat it with barbecue sauce. Or you could fill warm tortillas with the pork, this salsa or this salsa and maybe a little bit of goat cheese or cotija cheese to make Hawaiian tacos. You can eat it with a fork in front of the fridge when everyone is in bed and tell yourself it’s a nice, high-protein snack and it’s better than standing in the pantry eating chocolate chips.
You’ll want to plan on 6-8 ounces of pre-cooked meat per person–pork shoulder is quite fatty, so the weight will really cook down and this is one thing you definitely don’t want to run out of.
Recipe on Our Best Bites
1 2.5-3.5 boneless pork shoulder (butt) roast
Sea salt (pink Hawaiian sea salt if you can find it; SMOKED Hawaiian sea salt if you can find that)
Hickory-flavored liquid smoke (if you can’t find smoked sea salt, or for a little more smokey flavor)
Rinse the pork roast and pat it dry. Pierce the entire roast with a fork. Sprinkle generously with the liquid smoke (about 1 tablespoon, more if you have a very large roast) and sprinkle with the sea salt (start with about a little less than tablespoon and see how far it gets you; you can always add more after it cooks). If using traditional kosher salt, decrease salt to 1-2 teaspoons. Rub the salt into the roast. Place the roast in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat shreds easily with a fork.
Remove the roast from the pan and place it in a serving dish or on a serving platter. Shred it, discarding any large pieces of fat. Drizzle enough of the cooking liquid over the pork to re-moisten it and keep it from drying out. Serve with any combination of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni salad, and/or fresh fruits and vegetables (or a green salad). Plan on 6-8 ounces of pre-cooked meat per person–pork shoulder is quite fatty, so the weight will really cook down.