Happy National Pork Month and Pulled Pork Tacos

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About four weeks ago my editor at The Latin Kitchen put out a call for pork recipes to include in a collection celebrating National (in the US anyway) Pork Month. This, she said, could be a recipe that already had a life living on our personal sites and would just need a new introduction written for TLK. Fabulous, I thought, and I loaded up C’n’C to browse through the endless other-white-meat recipes I could choose from. Except I had none. Not one. Not. One. None.  I quickly scanned all my drafts where I collect all of the recipes I have been waiting to share, and pork was absent there as well. How is that possible, I ask you? I make this all the time!! And these!! I  can’t live without them. ¡Que lastima! This was a tragedy on EPIC proportions, so I vowed that as soon as the articles were published I would share not one but TWO recipes with you. Because really, October is a long month, and I would hate for you to go without scrumptious yet impossibly easy swine-inspired fare. So here goes…Pork to the boring-dinner rescue.

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(Originally published on TheLatinKitchen.com, October 2012)

Since I moved to Guatemala ten weeks ago, my favorite pastime has been going to the mercado municipal, where I can pick up fruits and vegetables and remote controls and underwear, all with relative ease. I have never once, however, ventured into the meat section – that daunting region with eyes staring and tongues, well, not exactly wagging. It is huge. There are long line and butchers who mean business. And buying meat is a tricky business. One wrong word and I end up with some unidentifiable piece of meat I don’t know how to cook…

I want to overcome my fear, so I start out small – the mercado is just too vast and populated a place to jump in with both feet. So, I begin at my local carnicería — a small space where I am the only customer at the time, and where the selection is much smaller. The gracious woman behind the counter spares me the embarrassment of flipping through my Spanish dictionary to find the right translation or worse, gesturing to my body parts and hoping she understands my clumsy attempt at Spanish charades.  Rather, she simply asks me what I am making, and when I respond guisado, she shows me a piece of baby pink pork.  I nod, pay and walk out, pleased that I have just bought my first piece of meat in Guatemala and it was as easy as ripping off a Band-Aid. In no time, there’s a pot of guisado con cerdo simmering on my stove, and I wonder what all the fuss was about.

After conquering the local carniceria, I believe I have overcome my fear of buying meat. So, today, I am ready to tackle el mercado municipal in Antigua. Walking among the endless, tightly arranged aisles feels like trying to walk through a wave on the ocean. Waves (and el mercado) have little respect for what’s in their way. I wish I could blame the mercado wave for washing me ashore next to a long line at one of the various carnicerías, but I am here of my own free will. I know what I need – lomo de cerdo – and I wait at a stall that sells pork, and only pork.  When it is finally my turn, I ask for, with practiced composure, what I need and how much. I watch as the butcher unhooks a huge leg of bone-in pork from a row of various meats that decorate the stall window. He sets about carving off a sizable chunk and lays it delicately on the scale; it is exactly the amount I ordered — to the ounce. I should be impressed with his precision, however, while standing in line waiting for my turn, I see him do this at least 15 times.

And that’s it. No funky parts. No haggling over price. With a little brown package tucked in my market bag and a sense of accomplishment, I take the bus home and set about using this little piggy for it’s desired purpose – tacos.

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BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 1 hour (pressure cooker) or 8 hours (crock pot); makes 8 servings, 3 tacos per serving

for pork

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 4 pieces

1 medium onion, quartered

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2.5 cups Barbecue Sauce

for pickled onions:

1 large white or yellow onion, sliced very finely

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

½ teaspoon salt

 to serve

24 corn tortillas

1 cup sliced radishes

Place quartered pork shoulder, onion, garlic and salt in the base of a pressure cooker or crock pot. Cover pork with 3 inches of water. If using a pressure cooker, seal lid and cook for 1 hour. Carefully release pressure and allow pot to cool for five minutes. If using a crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours or overnight.

For pickled onions, combine sliced onion, vinegar, water, and salt in a bowl and mix well. Let rest until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Remove pork to a shallow bowl. Using two forks, shred pork finely, stabbing at the meat and pulling the forks away from each other. Add barbecue sauce and mix well, adding a little of the cooking liquid if mixture is dry.

To assemble, place three tablespoon of meat in the center of each tortilla, top with a scattering pickled onions and a few radish slices; serve immediately.

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