Pulled Pork Sunday Happiness

Another week come and gone – though we do have that extra hour today, as we bid adieu to British Summer Time.  When you are given a spare hour, there’s only one responsible thing to do with it: use it as an excuse to slow-cook something.

We picked up a rather hunky piece of pork shoulder yesterday, anticpating heroic hunger after taking a long walk around Marylebone and Mayfair (which may or may not have included a few tipples at the Coburg Bar at the Connaught Hotel).  We decided to make some pulled pork – which is delicious, easy to prepare, difficult to mess up, and tastes even better after a few days (which is a great excuse to make it with a giant hunk of pork).

Here’s the plan:

  • 2 kg boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of stock
  • black pepper to taste
  • Pepper vinegar

Start by mixing all of the spices into a rub.  Note that you really need to TRY in order to mess up a pork rub, so tweaking the ingredients is part of the fun.  Just make sure you have the sugar and salt, and tweak away at the rest.

Pork rub.

Pork rub.

Coat the pork completely with the rub.  Make sure you get it into any folds.

Pork with rub.

Pork with rub.

Next, coarsely chop the onions and mince the garlic, and add them – along with the stock – into your crock pot.  Then put the pork on top, and cover.  That is largely all we need to do, aside from turning on the heat and waiting.

Note that we’re using a dedicated slow cooker that hits about 100c on the “low” temperature setting, but you can use your oven as well – just put the pork in a pot with a lid, and set to the oven to around 100c.  In either case,  we’re looking to let the pork cook for around 6-8 hours.  Alternatively, you can also use a higher temp setting – around 160c – and aim for about 4 hours.  But the low-and-slow method will give better results.

Keef watches over our pork.

Keef watches over our pork.

The goal here is to allow the pork to break down, so that it can be pulled apart into strands with a pair of forks.  Hence pulled pork.  Geddit?  So after the first 4 hours, check it every hour by prodding it with a fork.  When it starts to feel “wiggly” and you can pull a strand of meat from it with your fork – it’s all finished.  Be patient though: you don’t want to uncover the pot too often or for too long, as you’ll let too much of the heat out and prolong your cooking time.

When it is finished, remove it from the oven.  Grab 2 forks, and work your way through the meat, pulling it apart into strands.  Stir the pork and the liquids together – there should be enough to keep things moist, but not so much that the result is soupy.  Also, if your pork shoulder has a bone, it should be easy to remove at this point.

Lightly pulled.

Lightly pulled.

Bonus:  If your cut has skin attached, remove it and slice it into strips.  Put the strips in a pan and put the pan into the oven near the top, with the broiler on.  Let it crisp up (we like to allow some of the thinner pieces to burn, so you get the crunchy texture without too much of the fat).  Dice up the crispest portions and add it back to the rest of the meat.  Be judicious here though, as the skin can be very fatty: a little goes a long way (this is why we use only the thin/crispy portions).

The almost-burn skin (crackling).

The almost-burn skin (crackling).

Some of the skin chopped up.

Some of the skin chopped up.

Give everything a final mix, and you are just about ready to serve.  Some people like to add BBQ sauce to the mixture at this point, but we prefer not to (and add it to individual servings instead, if at all).  But pepper vinegar is an awesome addition here – the tang is a nice contrast to the pork’s richness, and the pickled peppers give it nice hit of heat.  If you don’t have on hand, some cider vinegar will work too.

This time around, we put the meat on bagels with a little bit of gouda – delicious!

Mmm... pork...!

Mmm… pork…!

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