Traditional imu kālua puaʻa involves a big pit filled with burning kiawe wood, red-hot rocks, wet banana stumps, layers of ti leaves and a whole pig. Yes, the result is indescribably delicious, but it's not the kind of meal people turn to at the end of a long workday.
Crock pot kālua pig approximates the imu kālua flavors but with a fraction of the effort. Start this early in the day and just leave it until dinnertime.
The ideal pork butt for this recipe is well-marbled and bone-in for maximum flavor and moisture. Rub the butt with salt, dribble with liquid smoke then wrap it in several layers of ti leaves. Besides helping to steam the meat, ti leaves provide a subtle flavor that shouldn't be skipped. If ti is not available, substitute banana leaves.
Place the wrapped butt in a crock pot and pour the cup of water around it. The water is there primarily to prevent scorching until the meat cooks down enough to render its own juices. Cook on low for at least 5-6 hours but up to all day.
When cooking is complete, remove the butt, reserve juices and discard the leaves. Let the meat rest for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, shred with two forks. Pour reserved liquid over the shredded meat and serve.
Assuming you have any leftover at the end of the night, kālua pig freezes well.