Friday, July 03, 2009

STAY HUNGRY - Pull my pork

I'm making pulled pork for the 4th of July. I know, I know, it's Vegetarian Summer, but from the beginning we sold the kids on the concept by saying that we'd be FLEXIBLE vegetarians. Flexitarians, as a book we have at my library would have it.

Now, this is about the 5th time I've made this particular kind of North Carolina style pork (Eastern North Carolina style if you want to be specific, and one of the things I really like about the 2nd grade teacher is the fact that when I said I was making NC-style pork barbecue, she asked what kind?), and I've had to look up the base recipe every time, so I guess it's time to write your mother down.

EASTERN North Carolina-style pulled pork involves vinegar, and red pepper, and a little mustard. No tomatoes, no ketchup, no barbecue sauce. That's the difference between Western NC, Georgia-style, Virginia, and, Christ knows, Northwestern Kentucky-style. Every pork-eating place on earth seems to have a way of braising pork, and ALL of the ones I've come across have been worthy of a faraway look and a sigh.

My friend Sac' tells me Johnny Depp once wrote an essay about Jean-Michel Basquiat "under the influence of pork." I buy that. Pork can have the same effect on me as Johnny Depp can sometimes. Sigh.


Really. Sigh. Good pork.

Pulled pork/carnitas

Doesn't look like much though, right? This isn't even the recipe I'm making, but it does show my big pan, and pork.

I started with this guy's recipe. Credit where it's due. But the recipe has undergone major Paulafications since I've started making it. "Paulafications". That's what my husband calls what I do to recipes. Hee!

First, run the flame up high under your biggest widest pot. I put my big hunk of pork in there and sear it on all sides, salting and peppering each side as it comes up. No oil or anything, the pork begins to put off fat pretty quickly.

While the pig is making all that noise in the pot, I slice up onions. About 6 for an 8-lb piece of pork. Add them to the pot as soon as they're sliced, along with 3 bay leaves and about 10 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped (swear while you're cutting them, that's pretty coarse).

Now, while the onions are browning, mix up your braising liquid.

2 cups white vinegar
4T brown sugar
more Worcestershire sauce than you'd expect (mine has the plastic dropper top still in the neck of the bottle, so rather than measuring, I count to six 5 times while I'm shaking it out) (sorry if that's not all that helpful)
1 T dry mustard
1 T thyme
2 t celery seed

And then there's your red. If your kitchen is like my kitchen, you have several different options when it comes to red pepper. There's the cayenne, paprika, and red pepper flakes you get from the supermarket, then there's Hungarian paprika, Indian red chilli powder, the dark chili powder you use for making chili, and possibly the dried chili pepper flakes left over from the last time you made hot sauce (and yeah I got that recipe up too).

I put in about 2 T of the Indian chilli powder and about 2 of the Hungarian paprika. You're really going to have to judge for yourself how much hotness your guests can stand. Remember, you can always shake on some hot sauce individually.

So, mix that up with a fork and when the onions have gotten a bit brown, pour it in over the pork. There will be some sugar and stuff at the bottom of your bowl - rinse it out with another half-cup of vinegar and pour it in the pot too.

Now put the heat on low, clap a lid on that sucker and go do some laundry. Or go screw around on Facebook. Screw around with your lovah, even. Go yell at the kids - boy I tell you today my seven year old stood there and lied to my face. I was so angry I was shaking. "You tell me - what do YOU want to do when somebody lies to you??!!" I shouted. Defiant and crying, he yelled, "I want to smack them!" "Oh yeah?" says I, "Well that's another thing we have in common!" He just looked at me, and then he cracked up. It's a good thing we have the same sense of humor too.

Many hours will pass. Overnight, could be. Turn the meat over every hour or so. Turn off the flame when you go to bed. When the stuff is really falling apart every time you touch it (could be as little as 4 hours), it is ready to be shredded.

Pause. Evaluate.

1) Is there a lot of fat on top? There will be. Use a ladle to skim it off. Last time I did this I had near on a cup of rendered pork fat that I put in an old okra pickle jar and set in the fridge. "Vegetarian summer" my ass. I know it was my idea, but zucchini tastes SOOO much better sauteed in pork fat.

2) Is there a bone in your meat? Shut up. It's a legitimate question. If there is, turn out the flame and let the stuff cool so you can fish out the bones.

3) If no bone, get two forks and, using a crosswise motion, start shredding the news. You're leaving today. You want to be a part of it, and I don't blame you. Standing there shredding all that pork takes FOREVER. Especially when all you want to be doing is shoving it down your gullet. But it is TOO HOT. Resist! Or, god, why not. You've got like 6 or 8 or 12 pounds of pork there, go nuts.

Once it is shredded, pause once again. How's the consistency? Too dry? Hm I don't know what to do about too dry. You fucked up. Too wet though, you can turn that flame on a little bit and evaporate off some of the liquid. Or refrigerate the whole thing and when the fat solidifies (there will still be fat even after you skim) take it off. But remember, you'll be using a slotted spoon to dish it out, so you can let it drain at serving time as well.

We serve this with hamburger buns, cole slaw, and hot sauce. People make their own sandwiches. Put out mustard and mayo too, but hide the ketchup and the barbecue sauce. I'm sorry, but people who want to put that stuff on YOUR AWESOME PORK are just insulting you. And your piggie.

Ingredient list:

1 8-pound pork shoulder (any pork roast will do)
4 to 6 white or yellow onions, sliced
10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
2 cups white vinegar
4T brown sugar
Worcestershire sauce
red pepper / paprika / chili powder / red pepper flakes
1 T dry mustard
1 T thyme
2 t celery seed