Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pigging Out

OK, so if you've been paying attention (and I hope you have been) I've been slowly building towards my indoor pulled pork preparation. We've discussed BBQ sauce, slow cookers, and dry rubs and now we're going to put them all to use. I love pulled pork and never miss an opportunity to eat some whenever I go for BBQ. As I don't have a yard, a grill, or a smoker I've had to find other ways to make nearly authentic pulled pork and this is what I've come up with. As noted in my slow cooker blog I have upgraded to a Rival BBQ Pit which is even closer to authentic but for the sake of this blog we're just talking a regular crock pot

Pulled pork is one of the big three BBQ items along with ribs and brisket (as far as I'm concerned). I mostly associate great pulled pork with the Carolinas and the smoky, tangy taste it comes along with. Great pulled pork has a vinegary taste to it that is great accompanied by BBQ sauce but shouldn't be necessary. For this preparation we're going to rub, cook, then finish with a vinegar based sauce. The classic BBQ sauce we discussed here (getting saucy) is more a condiment to be used as much or as little as you like

Let's start with the cut of meat, pork butt. Now with a name like that you'd figure the cut is from the backside of the pig, right? I know I did the first time I saw a diner in New Bedford, MA advertising pork butt sandwiches. No, pork butt (or Boston butt as it's also known) is from the upper shoulder of the front leg of the pig. It's usually well marbled, relatively inexpensive, and a tough cut of meat that works best with long, slow cooking techniques. For cooking in a crock pot (which we will be) I prefer boneless but of late I've only been able to find cuts with the blade bone still in. It's not a big deal. If the cut has a LOT of exterior fat then trim some of it away. Most will melt away but as we're doing a slow simmer all the rendered fat will end up in the simmering liquid. I feel the best result is prepping the day before cooking so plan ahead

The hardest flavor to impart on your pork in a Crock is smoke. We did use smoked paprika in the rub and will use more in the finishing sauce but for that real smoky essence we're going to add a little liquid smoke to the simmering liquid. Liquid smoke is actually made from gathering condensed smoke so it's all natural, not artificial and can usually be found in just about any supermarket. A little goes a long way so be careful.



2-3 lbs pork butt (shoulder) well trimmed- I have a 6 quart Crock Pot so this is as big as I can get in it)

Rich O's Dry Rub (found here)
1 cup water

1 tsp liquid smoke

For the finishing sauce (I can't some up with a better name so that's the name I'm using)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Step 1-Take your pork that's been well trimmed and pat it dry with paper towel. Place it on a flexible cutting board (or anything that can catch the excess rub and that the pork won't stick to). Grab your dry rub and coat the entire butt in it. Really work it into the surface. You can wear gloves if you wish but if not as soon as you are done wash your hands thoroughly. Put the rubbed pork in a container with a lid that seals tight and let it sit overnight. Dump any rub that didn't stick as once it's touched raw meat it can't be used again

Step 2- Remove the pork from the container. You'll notice quite a bit of liquid has been pulled out of the meat. That's a good thing. Place the pork in the Crock Pot. Add the liquid smoke to the water. OK, here is the inexact part. Carefully start pouring the water around the pork. Depending on the size and shape of the pork butt AND the Crock Pot the whole cup may not be necessary. Pour in enough so the liquid comes no higher then 2" up the side of the pork. If you add too much liquid at the start the additional liquid drawn during the cooking phase could cause your Crock Pot to overflow like in the unfortunate corned beef incident of 2009. The pork butt I used in the accompanied video I only added about 1/2 cup. Put the lid on, set it to low and let it cook for 10-12 hours. Yes that's right, 10-12 hours. AND don't you dare remove that lid

Step 3- Some time in the course of 10-12 hours you want to prep the finishing sauce. This is easy peasy. Mix the brown sugar with the hot water and stir until it's dissolved. Add the cider vinegar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne. The original recipe I used for this sauce was chokingly strong with vinegar so I've cut how much I use. If you prefer to switch out red pepper flake for cayenne you can do so. This sauce gives the pork a more authentic taste

Step 4- Remove the pork from the Crock Pot. This can be easier said then done as it will quite literally be falling apart. I use whatever I have to get it out from tongs to a slotted spoon to a fat skimmer. Because we're adding our own vinegar based sauce you can dump whatever liquid is left in the bottom of the Crock Pot. Now we pull. Some like to chop, others to shred with forks. I just throw on kitchen gloves and tear right in. If you do use your hands it's a good idea to let the meat cool down a bit. There is no method to the madness just grab big pieces and tear them up into smaller pieces. There really isn't anything more I can add to that

Step 5- Add the pulled pork back to the Crock Pot and set it to "keep warm" if you have that setting (you should). Add the vinegar based sauce from step 3 to the pork. Use a spoon or spatula to evenly coat all the pork. Leave it on warm until you're ready to eat. That's it

I like eating my pulled pork on burger rolls with a squirt of our ketchup based BBQ sauce. For a side I like a killer mac-n-cheese...but that's for another blog. As I am a solo act I end up with LOTS of leftovers which I like to use in a Cubano inspired sandwich or as an ingredient in a clearing out the icebox style fritatta...again, a story for another day. Have fun with one of my favorite dishes. No excuses!!

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