What are you Smokin’?! City Girl Pulled Pork.
City Girl Pulled Pork, That’s What!
First, some advice for my friends and readers: don’t stay up late playing cards if you live on the edge of Chinatown and the next morning is the last day of the Chinese New Year’s week-long celebration. Have you ever seen a lion dance? Firecrackers are de rigeur.
M a n y, m a n y firecrackers. All day. From 9 AM to past sunset.
I told you that the year of the pig was on its way out, ushering in the year of the rat. While the “lions” danced and the streets were covered with red firecracker remnants, the drums boomed, we sat on the sofa, a little limp, and watched cooking shows.
Watching Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie today reminded me I hadn’t shared my Carolina Pulled Pork adventure. If you can find the show on your local PBS station, you will see an expert pitmaster at work. Click the link to Gourmet’s snazzy new site to see the preview of this segment. John T. Edge a wonderful author and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance hosts the segment on Carolina barbecue. It’s full of his trademark charm and wisdom and introduces us to legendary pitmaster, Ed Mitchell. A real master of the smoker.
How to Make Carolina Pulled Pork in a City Loft
My brother-in-law John, a North Carolina-born chef will tell you, true Carolina style pulled pork is not something that is easy to make in a city. In fact there’s not too much he would do in a city, come to think of it. Hope he’ll forgive me for this recipe, or maybe he’ll just laugh.
Unless you have a deck and a smoker, it’s hard to approximate the proper elements of smoke and heat. I’m nothing if not tenacious and once I got the idea in my head that I wanted to do pulled pork sandwiches for the Superbowl party, there was really no talking me out of it. But, how to achieve the smoking? How to dress the pork?
On Fake Butchers
Pulled pork begins with the proper cut. As any cook worth her salt knows, a real butcher is your friend. In an effort to save time, we picked a large grocery store where we thought we could do a “one-stop shop.” We got almost everything we needed, saving the meat section and produce for last. I found a young man in a white coat in the meat section of Shaw’s. “Are you a butcher?” I asked. “Yes.” replied the young man. “Have you got Boston Butt?”
“What?!” I swear to you, he blushed as he replied. I think he thought I was flirting with him. Being twice his age, I was annoyed and mortified. I said, “You know, pork shoulder? It’s called Boston Butt.” Young men in stores really appreciate being educated by customers their mom’s age. Maybe not. Something tells me this is one I always get backwards.
“Oh,” he said, off he went “in the back” to see what they had, adding that they may only have the whole side of pig. I asked if he was saying I’d have to buy the whole primal. I don’t think he knew what that meant, either. Obviously he was not a real butcher.
He came out and said “we might have some tomorrow.” I asked him if I should tell my guests they “might” get dinner. A quick stop to the produce section revealed that the last critical ingredient, cabbage for the coleslaw, was also missing.
1. A white coat does not a butcher make.
2. A large market is not necessarily better stocked.
Off to Whole Foods
One of the best things about this chain is that, in my experience, they will have actual trained butchers behind the meat counter. I relayed the Shaw’s experience and they just laughed. Of course there were about seven different options of Boston Butt to choose from in their case. I picked two, boneless roasts totaling 8 lbs.
With our pork and cabbage in tow, we hailed a second cab and headed home to cook.
City Girl Pulled Pork
I have some delicious smoked salt (eternal thanks to Chef Barton Seaver for telling me how easy this is!) I’d made while bottling my homemade spice rubs and finishing salts for the holidays. (My article on these got the Editor’s Choice blessing on Suite101.com, you can find it here, including how to smoke your own salt.)
I used the Epicurious recipe to start. It is designed to be cooked in a barbecue grill or smoker with wood chips on the charcoal. It does have the three components of pulled pork: dry rub; “mop”; and Sauce.
For the dry rub, I used a smoked salt spice rub something like this:
- 1 TBSP smoked salt
- 1 tsp each: chipotle and habanero pepper flakes, onion flakes, pimentón, oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 TBSP ground black pepper
- light brown sugar, to taste
I massaged the rub into the pork shoulders and wrapped them up for the night.
For the “Mop”
This is used to baste the pork while it slow cooks. With a true, big smoker, I’ve seen them use something that looks like one of those ancient school janitor mops to tend their ‘cue. I suppose that’s the origin of the name. I used a silicone brush with an insert that helps capture sauces for basting. I added a couple teaspoons of liquid smoke to the mop, as well as extra black pepper, a few allspice berries.
Improvising a Smoker
I used my mammoth Le Creuset, lining the bottom with a de-constructed smoker bag. Using the bottom half of the bag which includes alderwood shavings.
I put the shoulders in their own foil pouches to keep them braising in the mop liquid, placing those on top of the “smoker” lining. I used higher heat adjusting for the indirect heat of an oven vs a grill or a smoker and basted every 45 minutes or so. In about 6 hours, it shredded beautifully with two forks. I tossed it with the Carolina Barbecue Sauce and served it on small sandwich buns with coleslaw.
We fed 10 or so well, with takeaway and leftovers. It was a hit.
The rest of the menu?
Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Chips and nibbles
Lavender lemon bars and triple chocolate cookies
A pitcher of Jamaica – agua fresca (hibiscus tea) with fresh fruit and soda.
In Epi – The Carolina Barbecue Sauce recipe uses about a 3:1 apple cider vinegar: ketchup ratio a little brown sugar and salt and red pepper. I added a scant teaspoon of liquid smoke to the sauce, along with some chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, but kept the vinegar prominent to keep true to the Carolina flavor profile.
I added some of the accumulated juices from the mop and the pork to the sauce and tossed it with the shredded pork. I made extra sauce so some was available to drizzle over the coleslaw and pork on the bun.