Confession: I have a pulled pork obsession. Its not the only one, of course. It snuggles in nicely right along side some other obsessions in my quirky, neurotic bed-geuze, light and airy baguettes, guacamole, Nabokov, spectators and defending Hall and Oates; many of which came out last evening at a wonderful little dinner party thrown by yours truly and my good friend Dave (far right: in line at the margarita station, catching shit from our brewmaster).
I love dinner parties. The genesis of this “blog” stemmed from these little get-togethers and has proven to be a serious jam time and again. The reason for this soiree? Two fold: Dave’s desire to make fish tacos (which could only be achieved on a large scale, obviously) and our not having to work a 12 hour day at the brewery afterwards. It also gave me a chance to exercise my pork obsession as it is a great thing to make for parties (Cheap. Delicious. Holds well.). Normally when we cook, we follow our two little flowers of ideas and nurse them to fruition separately and there was no exception here. He made some bitchin’ fish tacos and cabbage that I will include on another post so as not to burden you, dear reader. Tacos are also a great party food, I found out. There is something entirely communal, but still individualistic about the taco spread at a party; everyone comes together to play in the snow fall of taconess, but like each individual snowflake, each taco comes out a little bit different.
Each time I’ve done a pork shoulder/boston butt/whatever the hell else its called I’ve gotten successively more complicated. This time it was a chocolate-ancho rubbed butt that was brined first using a slight twist on the simple brine from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie. Check it out, its a great book with tons of amazing tips, stories and recipes. After the brine, the pork was cooked for 6ish hours in an oven at 275F, then pulled using a friend and two forks. Its a little time consuming up front, but once its done, you can take it easy. Drink Beer. Carouse.
For my first one, I wanted to keep it fairly simple, but ended up just tossing in whatever sounded good:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup of salt
- 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
- 2 TBS of paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 smashed cloves of garlic
- Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
- Chill the brine. I used the old-homebrew-ice-bath-in-the-sink method (Sink. Ice. Water. Submerge pot, but make sure it doesn’t scale the wall of your tasty creation.)
- Submerge meat into the brine. I would also do this in the sink as you are definitely gonna displace some brining liquid. Set a plate that can fit in the pot with the lid on it, on top of the meat so it will stay submerged (I failed to do this, but it turned out well).
- Refrigerate for 24ish hours. It really depends on the size and make of the meat, but for a 8.5 butt, 24 hours worked great.
- After the earth has made its rotation, drain the brine (don’t reuse) and then put the meat back in the fridge for ANOTHER turn of the earth. You gotta let that shit distribute back evenly through the pork. Let it rest. Its worth it. I went ahead and used that chocolate-ancho rub during this rest time. I’m really not sure if this hampered the distribution of the briney juices, but I doubt it as it was still damn tasty (*note-I am so not a professional).
So after cooking, and a good 30 minute rest on the counter, this pork was supa-tenda. Take the time and try it. It is the only way.
Some good pork-prepping tunes? Tears For Fears. Also, this.