I’m fortunate that I get to travel a couple times a year from sunny Southern California to sunny Kona, Hawaii, to visit our coffee farm. Sometime during each trip I try to make a quick stop at Kaaloa’s Super Js, a family owned road side store that sells not only clothing and make-up, but some pretty ono (delicious) food! Janice and her mom prepare local Hawaiian fare such as, laulau, poi, lomi salmon, and macaroni potato salad. All are delicious, but for me the “ummm, so good” moment comes when I have my first fork full of their kalua pig and cabbage. The dish is simple: slow cooked smoky pieces of shredded pork and sliced cabbage served in its own cooking broth. A wonderful unctuous mouth feel comes from the small pieces of fat still clinging to the pork.
Making traditional Hawaiian kalua pork is a big all-day production, requiring an imu (underground pit) lined with rocks and a whole pig wrapped in banana leaves. That’s why you generally find it only being done as the centerpiece of the Hawaiian luau at resort hotels.
Here on the mainland, when I’m craving that buttery, smoky melt-in-your-mouth pork I turn to a recipe my friend, Brenda, gave me years ago. She would bring it to our church potlucks because it was always a hit and easy to make for a large group. Eating it transports me across the Pacific back to Super Js, the only thing missing is the aloha I’m always sure to get from Janice and her mom 😊
This dish can be made in a crockpot, or in the oven using a dutch oven or a covered roasting dish.
Cook time: Crockpot 8 hours on low Oven 4 ¼ hours
Slow Cooked Kalua Pork and Cabbage
• 3 ½ pounds country-style pork ribs or, boneless pork shoulder/butt
• ¼ cup soy sauce
• 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• ½ cup water
• 2 teaspoons liquid smoke, Hickory
• 1 medium head of cabbage, cored, cut into 6 wedges
• Leave country-style ribs in whole pieces. If using pork shoulder cut into 6 equal size pieces
• Add soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, water and liquid smoke into your cooking vessel of choice. Stir to combine.
• Place pork pieces on top of soy sauce mixture, roll to coat meat. Cover with tight-fitting lid.
• For oven method: Bake at 300 degrees. After 3 hours open lid and mix in cabbage. Cover and bake additional 1 ¼ hour.
• For crockpot method: Set on LOW and cook for 6 hours. Open lid and mix in cabbage. Cover and cook additional 2 hours.
• Let rest 15 minutes. Use 2 forks to pull pork apart into large bite size chunks.
• Serve pork and cabbage with a little of the cooking broth.
Interesting ingredient fact: Did you know that liquid smoke is made by collecting the vapors from burning wood (i.e. Hickory, Mesquite), cooling and condensing it into liquid, then distilling it into concentrate. Lastly, it’s filtered to remove any impurities. Liquid smoke provides the same intense taste and smell from cooking in an actual smoker, but without the hassle of lighting a fire and smoking out your neighbors!