I don’t eat much pork. I blame it on family parties where pigs were “caught” and butchered to serve hundreds of people through an entire weekend. My uncles, aunties, and I joked one weekend about how those party weekends become “Pork 101 Ways”. Pork in the morning. Pork in the afternoon. Pork in the evening. Pork at night. Pork. Pork. Pork.
As you can tell, I’m porked out.
I did make a pork loin a few weeks ago that I saw Michael Symon make on his show, Cook Like An Iron Chef. It was pretty tasty, but not something I’d make over and over again.
What put me over the edge with making pork again so soon was a conversation I had with a co-worker two weeks ago after the store closed. He knows I’m from Hawai`i and that I eat a gluten-free diet. The conversation started with him stating that a lot of the traveling he wants to do has to do with food and asking me about the local fare back home. The discussion led to kalua pig.
I was trying to describe the wonders of kalua pig. The deep rich smokiness that develops from spending hours in an imu (an underground cooking oven) is unlike anything else. I’m not sure I quite got it across because I found myself craving kalua pig. When I’m thinking about food, it’s hard to concentrate on something else, like describing it to someone.
Traditionally, the pig would be placed in a pit lined with hot rocks, banana leaves and ti leaves. Hot rocks are also placed in the pig for even cooking and then the outside rubbed with Hawaiian salt. The pig is blanketed with banana leaves, ti leaves and smeared with smoking koa wood to give it that smokiness. The whole thing is covered in layers of burlap and sand to allow it to steam for 6 hours.
There are oven made versions of Kalua Pig. A good friend of mine back home presented me with her mother’s version of Oven Kalua Pig before I moved to Kentucky. I adapted this recipe and some others I found online to make it in the slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Kalua Pig & Cabbage
5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder roast or pork butt.
3 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or Gluten-free Tamari (use regular soy sauce if gluten is not an issue)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons Hawaiian salt (or coarse sea salt)
5-10 drops liquid smoke
1-2 bananas, unpeeled
1/2 head cabbage chopped (I used red because I was trying to use up what I had on hand)
Mix together liquids and salt. Rub the mixture into the pork. Place into the slow cooker and then place the bananas on top. The bananas replace the banana leaves. If you have banana leaves and ti leaves, you can wrap pork in the leaves (banana leaves touching the pork and ti leaves on the outside) and tie it with twine. Cook on high for 5 hours. Shred the pork and remove the bone. Add the cabbage and cook for 2 more hours. Serve over rice.
Note: If you want to make it in the oven, wrap the pork in the banana leaves and ti leaves as instructed for the slow cooker. If you don’t have or don’t want to use the leaves. Place 1-2 unpeeled bananas on top of the pork and then cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes per pound.