Salt to taste

My favorite thing to cook is Pork Carnitas. If I had my wish, this dish would be my specialty, you know, the thing that my kids grow up talking about as their favorite food, the meal that can’t be topped, living on in the annals of meals preceded by “Mom’s” in the title that just elevates it to untouchable status.

I love these for so many reasons. They’re packed with flavor, they make delicious left overs, but the best part is the smell that they fill my house with as they simmer for hours on my stove. Garlic and onions taking me back to my mom’s kitchen mixed with cumin and pork taking me to my Grandma’s. Yummmmmm!

The only thing about these, as with any dish really, is that you can’t capture the perfect flavor with measurements in a recipe. Don’t get me wrong, the measurements come close but the amount of seasoning I use is never exactly what the recipe says. I know I’m not the only one to do this while cooking. My mom taught me the amount of ingredients to use in her specialties by saying things like “pour the milk until you count to two”. Other women I know cook entirely by smell. Still others eye-ball it. My point is, no matter what the recipe says, we’re probably gonna end up doing our own thing with the seasonings.

My pork carnitas are the same way. The ingredient that I tamper with the most is the salt. I add a lot. It’s pork after all. There have been times when I’ve added too much and times when I’ve added too little and times when I’ve added just the right amount. Salt is one of those seasonings though that can go bad real quick. Sometimes, I’ll find myself holding the Morton’s box over a pot and thinking, “Well, that escalated quickly”. And you can’t unsalt once you’ve salted.

salt-273105_1280

So goes life as Christians. We are raised in church with the knowledge that, “We are the salt of the earth” and “Once we lose our saltiness, it can’t be restored” and those things are true. However, we use this as justification to shout out our political views, our dislike of things that are opposite of what we believe, and to turn our smart phones into soap boxes. All in the effort to be salt and light, to bring to the table the perspective that can change the world for the better.

We shake that salt shaker. We shake it like a little kid shakes a rattle, with great intentions but with, at times, an oblivious manner. Extreme saltiness isn’t pleasing to everyone’s pallet. In fact, it’s rather off-putting and keeps people from coming back for more. When used correctly though, salt enhances, preserves, and elevates what it’s sprinkled on. So what do we do then? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately until things became clear to me the other night when I was reading Colossians.

Colossians4_5_6

Artwork Credit: Amanda Weaver Design

Two words stood out to me there. Full and seasoned. The thing that our words are to be full of is grace and then salt, as in anything, is simply the seasoning.

My carnitas are made with a blend of a bunch of spices and ingredients. All of them are oh-so-delicious but if I add too much salt, it detracts from the other things they have to offer.

Similarly, we as Christians should have a lot to offer in the way of love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, and yes truth that comes in the form of “saltiness”. However, this verse didn’t say to be full of salt. Salt is a seasoning, but also an attitude; that can sting, that can offend, that can leave people feeling dry and over powered. It says to use that as seasoning. As the extra compliment to grace.

Pork is the main thing. The salt enhances its flavor.

Grace is the main thing. Salt enhances its flavor.

Yes, we are not to compromise our beliefs that are, at times, different from the world’s but we are not to make that stance against the world our main course. We are to be bursting at the seems, I need a pin to pop, wear your elastic “eating” pants, full of grace. And then we can season our words with the truth that we believe.

If we do this, live our lives with a lot of grace, the very grace that has been extended to us, we buy influence. People won’t just tune us out when we talk and think of us as judgmental or hypocritical when we do wade in the controversial waters of our stance on some things. They’ll know what we’re full of and maybe, just maybe, love will come across.

All I want to do when I make Carnitas for people is to fill their stomachs to the point of comfort and happiness. I want them to feel at home in my home in a way that only a good meal can do. I don’t want to blow that chance on food that is over powering.

So it should go when we are presenting ourselves as representatives of Jesus, the man who was full enough of grace that he bled it.

Full of grace. Seasoned with salt.

Pork Carnitas

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 lbs pork shoulder, cut into several large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons (about :)) kosher salt
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1-1 1/2 large lime(s)
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 Can Chicken Broth
  • 1 Can Water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Heat vegetable oil in large dutch oven over high heat. Season the pork shoulder with salt, then arrange pork in dutch oven. Cook until browned on all sides. About 10 minutes. Add onion garlic,lime juice, chile powder, oregano, and cumin. Pour in chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer until pork is fall-apart tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large baking sheet. Shred and drizzle with cooking liquid.
  4. Bake pork in preheated oven until browned, about 20 minutes.