The other day my sister Kim called from Seattle to let me know she had been stocking her freezer with bargain pork.
"The sales are crazy right now," she told me. "No one's buying pork because of Swine Flu."
Even though there is zero correlation between consumption of pork products and swine flu, it just goes to show, there truly is a silver lining to every cloud.
Sure enough, the next day I happened upon a special display of pork butt at the grocery store, and hot dog! it even had the bone in it. I bought a 5 pound roast for SEVEN dollars. It wasn't even close to expiring. So I tucked it away in my freezer and waited for inspiration to strike.
It didn't take long. My lovely friend Keegan and I were out trolling for king salmon, and discussing the menu for an outdoor party on the beach. Her husband Dustin is a barbecue sauce fiend-- the kind of guy who puts barbecue sauce on his Cheerios-- so Keegan has become a wiz at making things like the ultimate BBQ sauce pizza.
"I have this big pork roast," I told her, "But I'm not sure what to do with it."
Her brilliant reply: "Pulled Pork Sandwiches."
So I said, "Yes yes YES!" That's what I always say to pulled pork.
I had a preconceived notion that to make a proper pulled pork I needed to have been born in Texas, Kansas City, or the Carolinas. I believed I needed to spend an entire sweaty day tending hickory wood embers in the barbecue, and basting every ten minutes. I thought that because I wasn't a fourth-generation pit boss my first five attempts would be mediocre at best. I was wrong.
Purists may cringe, but this Michigan-born Alaskan found the answer to low maintenance and succulent pulled pork in her crock pot. This is pulled pork you can make when you've got other things to do all day, and it will still stop the show. I like my pulled pork nice and messy, topped with Cole Slaw on a soft burger bun.
As it just so happened, right around the time I was making crock pot pulled pork in Juneau, my sister Kim was making traditional barbecue-smoked pulled pork in Seattle. She said that she's never seen plates so clean, but it did take a long time and she was completely saturated with smoke fumes by the end of the day. She shared hers with a bunch of friends from culinary school (she's a pastry chef), and they all agreed that the secret ingredient-- the one that made it a champion sandwich-- was the addition a few bread n' butter pickle chips. Might as well give it a try.
Crock Pot Pulled Pork
4 to 5 lb. pork butt or shoulder roast, preferably
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 yellow onions (preferably sweet ones like Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla)
12 oz. lager beer (I used a can of Rainier)
2 cups (16 oz.) barbecue sauce, or more to taste
1/4 cup stone ground mustard
2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (I like Crystal)
salt and pepper to taste
2 or 3 days ahead of time, combine salt, pepper, chili powder, and sugar in a small bowl and rub evenly over the pork roast. Let sit in the refrigerator until ready to use (this step is optional).
The night before you want to serve the pulled pork, place the roast in a crock pot. Add half (6 oz. or 3/4 cup) of the beer, one of the onions (peeled and sliced), and enough water to cover the roast. Place lid on crock pot and cook on low setting overnight, for 10 to 12 hours, or until meat is very tender.
The next morning, remove the roast from the crock pot and let sit until cool enough to handle. Discard cooking liquid. Pull the bones and excess fat from the roast and discard. Slice the large hunks of meat into pieces no more than 2 inches thick, and pull apart. The meat should shred easily.
Return the shredded meat to the crock pot. Add remaining 6 oz. (3/4 cup) beer, the barbecue sauce, mustard, cider vinegar, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Peel and dice the remaining onion and add to pot. Stir to combine. Turn crock pot to "low" setting, and cook an additional 4 to 6 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid burning from the "hot spots" in your crock pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve on burger buns with Cole Slaw and bread n' butter pickles.