Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Here, Piggy Piggy

For someone who grew up a Carolina girl, I discovered the delicious pulled pork sandwich late in life. I always knew it was there, hanging out at every BBQ joint in town, but never did my taste buds say "Yo, sister - we need that!" Then one fateful October night when I was in college, I found myself walking by the pulled pork stand at the North Carolina State Fair. I paused, pondered, and took the first step toward happiness: I got in line. I loved that sandwich so much, the next night I got another.

I've made pulled pork in a crock pot 3 or 4 times over the past year or so, and each time the flavor has been a little bit different, but always good.

I used a cut of pork called a "Boston butt," which had the bone in and a layer of fat on the bottom of the cut of meat. When making pulled pork in a crock pot, you do want some amount of fat on the meat to add a little flavor while the meat is slow cooking.

The next step was a little crazy - I opened the spice cabinet and started digging through, pulling out this and that and dumping whatever amount spoke to me into a mixing bowl. The mix contained cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, cumin, coriander...and I think that may be it. Like I said, it was a bit of a tornado-in-the-kitchen moment. Once mixed together, I rubbed the mixture all over the cut of meat and let it sit for a few minutes. This time, I did not brown the meat before cooking, and I think it was for the better.

I forgot to pick up a yellow onion at the grocery store, but luckily I keep a bag of Trader Joe's pearl onions in the freezer (they sell the most useful products!). In a little olive oil and a couple tablespoons of evaporated cane sugar, I sauteed the onions until they became caramelized, then put them in the crock pot. Ash and I looked through the various stouts he picked up at a little by-the-bottle beer convenience store (in PA, you otherwise have to buy beer by the case from a distributor). We chose three, poured them in the crock pot over the chunk of pig, and added a Blue Moon because we needed a little more liquid. I also added about half a jar of McCutcheon's BBQ sauce and a healthy dose of Cotton Honey straight from North Carolina. It's a great sauce with real, fresh ingredients. Finally, I threw in a couple of bay leaves. Usually I add fresh thyme, but /i forgot that, too...oops!

The pig was cooking by noon and we ate around 9 that night. Half to three-quarters of the time, the crock pot was set to "high" and the rest of the time it was set to "low." The meat pulled apart amazingly and we shredded it into fine pieces. I added a little of the "juice" and a dash of salt and then piled it on toasted potato rolls. Ash made all sorts of sauce concoctions to mix with his shredded pork. I definitely tasted a bit of heat from the cayenne pepper but it was just the right amount.

The next day I reheated some of the meat to have a sandwich for lunch and I swear it was even better than the day it was first cooked. I tasted a little more spiciness and a bit more flavor overall (I added a little of the juice to the meat before storing it in the fridge).

Honestly, the worst part of this process is the clean-up. Prep is easy, and cooking is almost effortless, since the crock pot does it all for you. This is a great meal to prepare for your own family, or something great to prepare the day before and bring to a potluck or cook-out. Nobody will be disappointed!


Anonymous said...


live pura vida said...

^ Ashley begged and pleaded until I allowed him to dump a spoonful of Tang into the seasoning mixture, because that's what boyfriends do when you let them in the kitchen.

Christina said...

Try spraying your crockpot with non stick spray, or rubbing it with a light coat of oil before you cook ANYTHING in it. I saw that tip awhile ago and have used it every time but once since. And that 1 time I hated myself for it. haha
Man I hope I have some form of pig in my freezer b/c I want to do some crock pot pulled pork now, too!

live pura vida said...

Sticking isn't ever a problem for the pork, since it's just cooked in beer, although that's a good tip I should keep in mind for chili! I'm just a bum so it seems like a lot of work to scoop through the leftover liquid to pull out any extra meat, shred it all, then separate the liquid from any solid leftovers (fat, onions, bones, etc.) and then finally bag up (and immediately take out to the trash!) the solids and run the liquid down the drain. Blah. I guess just dumping everything right into a strainer would be easiest. My crock pot is a beast...it's a big oval.