Not being from the South, I had no reference for good ole pork barbecue growing up. I mean, I am from the South of Brooklyn, NY (not to be confused with the neighborhood of “South Brooklyn,” which is actually situated in the North portion of the borough), but that doesn’t really fly here. I’m talkin’ authentic North Carolina or Tennessee pulled pork and ribs. Nevertheless, with some southern traveling under my belt and an obsession for food TV, I’ve adopted quite an obsession for the stuff.
We’ve all seen them. Those barbecue cook-off shows situated somewhere deep in the Swanee. Pit connoisseurs fastidiously tending to their pork shoulders or ribs in either commercial or homemade smokers – for hours and hours. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of those meals. Brined and rubbed with secret recipe spices, there’s something about smoke and slow cooking that just makes certain cuts of pork a magically satisfying culinary experience. Then there’s the sauce. Unlike some of us Northern amateurs, Southerners don’t slather on the sauce before cooking. That step comes after the cooking is done.
Speaking of barbecue sauces, some prefer North Carolina style – a vinegar based concoction with a hint of brown sugar sweetness and a lot of spicy kick. You, on the other hand, might go for Tennessee’s tomato-based sticky, red and sweet variety. If you’re lucky the chef will have laced it with some whiskey. Or head on over to Texas, where although they specialize in smoked beef brisket, their thinner, spicier tomato-based sauces will do just fine on any pulled pork or rib you can cook up.
So, how do you enjoy pulled pork? Well, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this classic, it’s called “pulled” because the pork is so tender that you can actually shred pieces of it with a fork. You’ll usually find it served up generously on a roll, smothered in sauce and piled high with plenty of home-style cole slaw. Believe me, there’s nothing more succulent. Whatever sauce you choose, you’ll experience an explosion of juicy sweetness, tartness and spice that will definitely taste like some more! As for ribs, you know the deal. Just start eating, and have plenty of moist hand wipes to go around.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m not purchasing a smoker and sticking it in my backyard, next to the pool house. Well, leave it to Phyllis Kirigan – or her son, in this case – to come up with a simply smashing way to prepare a pork shoulder in the oven that will knock your socks off, so to speak. Check out her pulled pork recipe below.
Now, not to leave my Mom out of this equation, who wouldn’t know a pulled pork sandwich from a meatball hero, she does have her own way of barbecuing pork that is somewhat curious, but always surprisingly delicious. She is, after all, from the South – of Italy, that is. In any event, she takes that jarred, duck sauce like stuff that’s laden with apricots and marinates her pork chops and ribs in it over night. The next day, my Dad grills them up. Screaming about the sticky mess they’re making on the grill, of course. Well, it’s hard to believe, but they’re actually very good. I know, it’s not the real deal. However, if you don’t find yourself south of the Mason-Dixon Line and don’t feel like heading off to a barbecue joint in town, this is an option in a pinch.
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Barbecue and pork really is a match made in heaven. Please be sure to get your hands on the real deal next time your down South. Some of those places are hopping, I assure you. So you might have to stand in ‘que. But it will be worth it.
Pulled pork is one of the South’s most popular dishes. However, you don’t have to seek out a North Carolina barbecue joint to enjoy this tender, savory delight. In fact, you don’t even need a barbecue pit. My son Chris created this juicy pulled pork last week for 50 hungry Long Islanders. It disappeared in a flash.
I have cut down his recipe to serve 8. It’s imperative to top a pulled pork sandwich with a tart cole slaw or cucumber dill pickles or both. And then, what to serve it on? Some prefer a crusty roll, but Chris likes a quality soft bun that will better soak up the barbecue sauce. Some recipes call for braising the pork and basting it from time to time. Chris did neither and the pork came out moist and succulent.
1 pork shoulder, about 6 – 8 lbs.
3 T dark brown sugar
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 T salt
1 T ground cumin
1 T smoked paprika
1 T freshly ground black pepper
Trim excess fat from pork shoulder. Place pork in a baking dish. Combine sugar, onion and garlic powder, salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Rub over pork to coat. Place in refrigerator at least 3 hours. Bring pork to room temperature. P lace in a roasting pan fat side up in a 225 degree oven.
Slow cook until meat is fork tender and the temperature is 160 degrees. This will take 6 to 7 hours. Let rest. Take 2 forks and pull apart into shreds and place in a bowl.
1 cup ketchup
1 T mustard
2 T molasses
1 cup apple cider
3 T dark brown sugar
½ t crushed red pepper
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and whisk to dissolve sugar. Cook over medium heat until sauce comes to a simmer. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Mix the barbecue sauce into the pork shreds until well coated and serve alongside buns, cole slaw and pickles. Let guests put together their own sandwiches.
In the unlikely event there are leftovers, consider making pork tacos or pork hash.
Chris’ Cole Slaw
Barbecued pulled pork cries out for the cool crunch of cole slaw. Chris’ special combination produces a tangy flavor and a colorful presentation. Be sure to cut the cabbage and fennel as thinly as possible.
ad green cabbage
1 small head red cabbage
1 fennel bulb
1/2 Vidalia onion
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T white Balsamic vinegar
1 t celery seeds
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
Cut each head of cabbage in half and then in quarters. Cut out the hard core. Slice wedges as thinly as possible and place in a large bowl. Cut fennel bulb in quarters and slice thinly. Set aside fronds for another use. Shred carrots in a food processor using fine disk. Slice onion thinly. Add everything to bowl.
Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over slaw and toss. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Toss again every 15 minutes or so to make sure flavors meld and again just before serving.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com