Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce
Look what I did! From scratch! All by my onesie! And it was delicious!
I don’t know why this particular culinary feat has me so proud, but I suspect it’s because I was sure I’d fail both at the start and at multiple points along the way. I am American (as I think I make abundantly clear) but not from the places where BBQ is common or authentic. I’d never attempted (or even eaten) pulled pork made in a home kitchen. And not living in the U.S. means the butcher actually has no idea what you want when you ask for “Boston butt.”So we were off to a rocky start.
The recipe I glanced at was easy enough: take a massive piece of bone-in pork shoulder, rub it with spices and cook it slow and long. I decided to cook it a few days ahead (thank Jesus) and add some liquid to the pot. I also decided eight hours seemed like a mighty long time to slow cook something. It was, I found out, not. So I ended up frantically texting my parents at midnight to ask if it’s safe to go to sleep in a house full of children with the oven on (it is) and will a huge chunk of slow-cooked meat left out to cool and not immediately shredded at 3AM when it’s (FINALLY) cooked to perfection seize up and become an inedible lump of gristle (um, no? What are you talking about? Go to sleep).
The pork cooked slowly all afternoon and halfway into the night when I’d set my alarm to retrieve it and left it on the stove top and went the f*@& back to sleep. And because I’ve got a million things to do, most of which I have to navigate while holding a baby on my hip, pulling the pork (two hands required) didn’t actually happen until about 18 hours after it came out of the oven. (It was graciously easy to pull – and snack on – while the BBQ sauce simmered.) Mixing the pork with the BBQ sauce didn’t happen until a whole day after that (see above about free hands). Would it dry out? (NO, go to sleep.)
Eventually, it all came together. Pork was slowly cooked until it fell apart, pulled, and doused in a homemade sauce that, had I known how easy BBQ sauce is to make, I’d have been making all my life. It was served warm with Boston baked beans (I know, not super authentic but still very American and very close to our Bostonian hearts), cornbread (Jiffy!) and coleslaw. Guests brought Pimento cheese dip, deviled eggs and champagne. We ate and drank like we weren’t sitting in a North London kitchen. We had hot fudge brownie sundaes for dessert. We stayed up until all the candles burned down. We fell in love with homemade pulled pork and complained that there wasn’t more leftover.
Next time – and there will be a next time – I’ll just put it in the oven in the morning, cook it all day and remember that it’s as forgiving as it is delicious.
PULLED PORK AND HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE
This recipe takes time, lots of time, but not a lot of it is hands on. The only things you have to DO is rub the rub, put it in the oven, check the internal temperature and then shred. Most of the ingredients (but not method, I did that myself because I think I know better) I pulled from Mark Bittman’s recipe. My alterations are in ellipses. We found it fed 6 adults with leftovers for two. Would be unreal as a pulled pork sandwich.
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns (or ground pepper)
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder (I used sweet because I wanted all the kiddles to eat it)
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander (I don’t have so didn’t use)
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (ditto)
- 1 pork butt, 5 to 6 pounds (I used bone-in pork shoulder)
- water or broth
Mix all the rub ingredients together in a large bowl. Place the pork shoulder in the bowl and rub the rub (!) all over, into all the little crevices. Really get in there.
In the morning or sometime when you’ll have like 12 hours to leave the oven on and not freak out, preheat oven to 120C/200F. Place the pork in a large ovenproof lidded pot. Doesn’t matter if it’s fatty side up or down. (My pot’s lid wouldn’t sit tightly because the pork was so big, that’s OK.) Put a little water and/or broth in the bottom of the dish. I probably put enough to come a little less than way up the pork.
Put the pot in the oven and leave it to do its thing, 8 – 12 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. You’ll know for sure it’s ready – when it will be moist, falling off the bone and easy to shred – when the internal temperature will read between 180-200F on a meat thermometer.
Set aside to cool a bit before shredding by hand. You can do this a few days ahead if you want. Once you shred it, add 2/3 of the BBQ sauce (recipe below) and mix well. Serve slightly warmed with extra BBQ sauce.
HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE
From Melissa Clark’s recipe. Made more than enough for the quantity of pork we made. Keeps well in the fridge for a few weeks at least.
- 1 ½ cups ketchup
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated (I used garlic powder because #lazy)
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- Pinch of cayenne (didn’t have it, didn’t use this)
- Dash of hot sauce, more to taste
Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer gently for 10 – 20 minutes to bring the flavors together and deepen the color. Adjust seasoning to taste. Can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge. Serve warm or at room temperature.