My husband is a really, really outstanding cook and baker. He buys organic foods, and for our entire life together has insisted that he is a vegetarian.
However, he spent his growing-up years in the South, and so every now and again the rules of vegetarianism would be magically suspended while he dug into an entire set of baby back ribs smothered in smoky sauce, or wolfed down a pulled-pork sandwich big enough to have its own zip code.
Having spent most of my life in Places Not The South, I thought BBQ meant putting some ears of corn in foil, slapping a chunk of salmon on the grill, and shoving some foiled taters down in amongst the coals. I did not realize, until I met Nicholas, that those things are not really BBQ, those things are but a pale shadow of the true Forms of BBQ: ribs and pulled pork, perhaps with a few sausages or beans added in for diversity’s sake.
Last week on Ravelry, it seemed a lot of people were making homemade pulled pork, and I suddenly realized that if I wanted to score some serious Wife Points, I could look up the how-tos and see about making a batch in our pristine meatless kitchen.
After all, if the rules of vegetarianism are suspended for BBQ take-out, then surely they would also be suspended for homemade delights.
Reassured by my online friends that pulled pork was “easy,” I read through the recommended recipe online. OK, fine, didn’t seem too bad.
The trouble, however, was two-fold: We don’t own a grill or smoker (yet; Nicholas has Lust In His Heart for the Big Green Egg) and I’d never bought a chunk of meat in my entire life that wasn’t hamburger meat or the occasional sausage or rasher of bacon.
More research ensued. I found that many people said that you could successfully cook pulled pork in, of all things, a crock pot. I also found that the cut of meat recommended for pulled pork is called either a Boston butt, or a pork shoulder.
Same cut of meat, two different names.
There are some questions it is virtuous not to ask, methinks.
I will point out that by this time, Nicholas, having heard what I was researching, had already gotten out his baking flours and had made a batch of his special sandwich rolls. Just in case, you see. (It’s important to Be Prepared in these cases.)
Recipe: Soft Rolls from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen
Grocery list made, Nicholas and I went off to the local market to see about buying The Meat. We actually ended up having to ask the butcher, because we really were literally clueless. (Ask a vegetarian to buy a pork shoulder sometime and then set them loose in the market. It’s really quite amusing.)
The minute we walked in the door with The Meat, the attitude of the dog changed completely. FINALLY, you could hear him thinking, Mom and Dad have finally learned how to SHOP FOR FOOD PROPERLY.
He was extremely attentive while I made and applied the dry rub, wrapped The Meat in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to marinate (or rubinate) overnight.
I then made the mop, which is a gloriously descriptive country term for the wet basting sauce which one “mops” over the meat during cooking. That went into the fridge to sit overnight as well.
Then I read the final line of the recipe: Serve with Red Carolina BBQ sauce.
There was no recipe given for the fabled Red Carolina BBQ sauce, so I appealed to The Cook to help figure out what the right sauce would be. Nicholas, true to form, went to the shelves of cookbooks, and pulled out an old-fashioned plastic-spiral bound booklet of Best Ever Barbeque Sauces. And right there was an actual Western Carolina Red Sauce!
By this time, however, I was beginning to wonder about how we were actually going to cook The Beast. Nicholas kept saying we didn’t need no stinkin’ crock pot, because, of course, we didn’t actually own a crock pot. But the more I looked around the kitchen, the more I realized we also did not own a pot with lid big enough to let this porker stew in for several hours. (Plus. It’s been super hot during the day, and the thought of having the oven on all day really did not excite me.)
The next morning, while he went off to swim, I went off to buy a crock pot. Then I came home, washed the pot, plunked The Porker in the pot, added the mop, pressed buttons, and went off to make the Western Carolina Red BBQ Sauce.
I’ll cut to the chase:
The Meat literally fell apart after 8 hours in the crock pot. We could barely contain ourselves long enough to cut the fresh rolls in half, pile them high with pulled pork, and douse them with the sauce.
Of course, being the good follower-of-directions that I am, I bought the amount of Meat called for in the recipe: about 6.5 pounds. We now have enough pulled pork stashed away in little freezer bags for about twelve meals, plus the one we ate last night. (Zombie Apocalypse, bring it.)
Meat: I bought two pork shoulders, each about 3.3 lbs. One of them was boneless and one had the bone in and a layer of fat around it.
Rub: I used the recipe here, except that I added about a tablespoon of Mexican oregano, because another recipe recommended it. I used two kinds of paprika (N. has several in his collection, thank you Penzey’s): Hungary Sweet and Spanish Smoked, about half the total amount for each. Because I didn’t know any better, I used the dark Demara sugar I found in the baking cabinet.
Mop: Same recipe link as above, except that I added several drops of liquid hickory smoke, and about a tablespoon of maple syrup in honour of it being Canada here and all. I put it in the fridge overnight to meld the flavours.
BBQ Sauce: Since it is an oldish book and I am not sure it is still available, I’ll give the recipe here. (Update: Wonders never cease. I found it on Amazon.)
Western Carolina Red BBQ Sauce
1 cup tomato catsup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Place all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.
And that, methinks, is enough for today, because now I have made myself ravenous (and probably you, too!).