Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pulled Pork

My name is Annie, and I'm a TV food programme addict.

There. I've admitted it.

I've heard people say things like "who watches that stuff anyway?" or "does anyone ever actually try the recipes?"

Er, "me" and "yes"!

Second confession: I'm not a trained chef - well, not professionally trained.  Just trained in the crucible of life: realising what I didn't like about my Mum's cooking; experimenting with weird concoctions when first allowed near the cooker myself as a teenager; enjoying having my own kitchen when I got married and cooking 3 course meals from scratch starting when I got home from work in London at 7pm each night; learning to cook tasty vegetarian meals when hubby went veggie for a year due to ill health; learning to cook tasty gluten free food when 2 sons went gluten free; learning to BAKE gluten free; learning to make EVERYTHING from scratch by the time 5 out of 6 of us ended up on a gluten free diet....

All the time, I've watched cooking shows.  I find them even better than cookbooks because the real things I've learned have been from those throw away comments that the chef makes on camera, those little asides that make you yell "aha! So THAT'S the secret!" at the TV (or is that only me?).

Actually, thinking about it, I find food blogs do that for me too.  The more chatty/off topic the writer is, the more I find I learn from those musings - far more than from the actual recipe that they kindly write out at the foot of the post.  Bloggers like Gluten Free Girl (who educates me at the same time as making me feel part of her life) and Pig in the Kitchen (who makes me laugh out loud every time whilst having been my life saver during 2 years of gluten, dairy, soya AND egg free cooking) and more recently foodie/supperclub bloggers like Food Urchin (who makes me laugh, nod in recognition, and invariably triggers me off on some wild food escapade myself).

All of which is a looong introduction to this post about pulled pork.  You see I love watching Diners, Drive ins and Dives.  Partly because I'm a frustrated Diner Owner, partly because I love food that is probably bad for me (yeah I know, I'm married to a wellness coach, go figure).  One of the most commonly featured American diner foods featured is pulled pork.  Rubbed, smoked, barbecued, pulled, sauced, in a buns, with fries...  Never understood the fascination.

I'd made pulled pork before you see.  Well, I thought I had.  I'd slow roasted pork till it "pulled".  Nice but *shrug* not worth a trip for.  I'd cooked it in my slow cooker (I LOVE my slow cooker) for hours and hours till it fell apart.  Nice but *shrug* a taste that I wasn't that keen on (I'd cooked it in liquid, braising it, and I'm not really a fan of braising!).

I wondered if it was down to the cut.  The Americans all used "pork butt" and I couldn't find it in the supermarket or the butchers over here (yeah ok, stop laughing at the back, I know that NOW!).

Finally I thought, after one particularly tasting looking episode, to google pork butt.  Guess what?  It's pork shoulder!

When a friend yesterday gave us a pork shoulder joint, it seemed like a sign.  Every person I'd seen on Triple D had made a dry rub and every time I saw the list of ingredients I used to laugh because it seemed to me that the first time they'd made it they'd thrown a little bit of everything in and, having found it worked, couldn't work out what exactly MADE it work so always recreated faithfully that first "bung it all in and hope for the best" concoction.

So that's what I did.

To the best of my recollection (don't shoot me, I'm new at this food blogging/recipe lark), this is what I did:

1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/4 tsp English Mustard powder
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp good quality instant coffee (yes, really)

I'm pretty certain that was it.  Put it this way, I'll do it that way next time and check and I promise I'll update you!

I cut all the rind and large bits of fat off of the pork and rubbed it over with the dry rub.  Then I doubled wrapped it in clingfilm, very tightly, and left it in the fridge overnight for 12 hours.

I put the slow cooker on to low (mine has 3 settings) and just put a tiny bit of water in the bottom - enough to wet the whole surface - and placed the (now unwrapped) pork on top of it.  Put the lid on and left it for 9 hours.  It wasn't a huge joint (I know, sorry, I didn't make a note of the weight!) and a bigger joint could take up to 10 or 12 hours to get to the right "pulled pork" texture.

Do what I did and test it - you'll know when it's ready!

We wanted a BBQ sauce to go over it so after a quick google I settled on this one on the Food Network site.  No reason other than by then I was hungry and DH was just ripping into the pork so I couldn't be bothered to look further!

I halved the quantities (it was only for 2 of us after all) and to be honest we found it far too sharp for our poor English tastes.  I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and another good 2 or 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar before we thought it was ok.  Then I had the genius idea of adding some of the liquor from the bottom of the slow cooker.  We mixed 1 part of sauce to 2 parts of the liquor and BOY that was the real deal!  The pork juices and the added flavour from the rub balanced out the sharpness of the sauce to perfection.

I'm a convert! Obviously the dry rub and then the dry cooking (instead of braise) of the pork made the right sort of cooking method to match all those American Diner pulled pork creations.

Next time we're going to try and turn our barbecue in to a smoker and see if we can go the whole hog (*ahem*)!

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