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Pulled Pork Sandwiches

September 2, 2011

With my Southern California Thai roots, and my husband’s Finnish Upper Midwest roots, pulled pork sandwiches, which would probably be considered more southern bbq style food, is not something you’d suspect we’d make.  However, we’ve actually tried our hand at making pulled pork sandwiches twice and had some pretty good results.

Now, mind you, my non-sauce/dressing husband also doesn’t like ribs, or rib meat whatsoever.  So, generally, bbq (which means meats are generally covered in bbq sauce – which he’s not a huge fan of) is usually not the type of food that we gravitate towards.  Me, on the other hand, I love bbq.  I think that bbq done right has a great tangy flavor.  I’m a huge fan of vinegar, so vinegar-based bbq sauces are really my style.  Luckily, there are some types of bbq meats that my husband will eat, his favorite being brisket, especially if he gets to eat the charred crispy outer edges of the brisket.  (Just wait until I get to a future blog post about The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX!)

Last year, during a food festival/potluck that we had at work, one of my good friends brought in her crock-pot pulled pork and I thought it was fabulous.  She told me it was super easy to make at home and required very little work.  She was nice enough to give me her recipe.  I was able to convince my husband to let me try the recipe and that we would see how it goes.

Pulled pork essentially requires the following ingredients: large pork butt or shoulder (bone-in is better for flavor, but not necessary), dark brown sugar, granulated garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, grill seasoning (and you can also add paprika too for some more color and flavor if you choose), grapeseed oil, onions, liquid smoke, apple cider vinegar, white distilled vinegar, and bbq sauce of your choosing.  My friend recommended Sweet Baby Ray’s, which is what I’ve used too, but you can certainly use whatever brand you want.

The basic recipe calls for a spice rub to coat the pork butt prior to putting this in a pan on the stove under high heat with a drizzle of grapeseed oil (which has a higher burning temperature than olive oil or vegetable oil).  Sear the pork on all sides until crispy; set aside and put into a crock pot.  Meanwhile, slice up an onion and throw it into the pan on the stove along with some apple cider vinegar and some bbq sauce.  This will help to cook the onions and deglaze the pan of all the yummy goodness from the pork butt.  Once cooked, throw the onions and juices on top of the pork butt in the crock pot.  Throw a couple of drops of liquid smoke (to help give it that really smokey quality) into the crock pot, turn it on high and let it do its thing for 8-10 hours.  At some point during the cooking process, throw in some white vinegar and some bbq sauce into the crock pot.   Once I let this go in the crock pot to cook itself, my place smells divine!  The aroma of the pork and the carmelized onions and the smoke combine together in a nice heated scented fragrance that just wafts through the house.  I have to control myself to not just go over, lift up the lid and start digging in to the yummy pork!

When its done cooking, you’ll just know!  The pork will be so fall-off-the-bone tender.  You’ll need to transfer the pork from crock pot on to a cutting board.  Careful before you get pork butt all over the place!  Just see if you can get this from crock pot to cutting board in one piece.  Yes, it’s just that tender.  Once on the cutting board you can literally pick up the bone and the meat will fall right off.  You can just toss aside the bone (or you can reserve it for stock if you want to make your own home made stock).  Take 2 forks and start shredding the pork.  Or really get in there and just use your fingers.  It’s super simple to do.

What you have left in the pot at this point is some of the cooking liquid as well as a lot of fat that has been rendered off the pork.  Drain the liquid and fat out of the crockpot and try and skim off as much of the fat as possible.  Put the shredded pork back into the crock pot alongside the carmelized and cooked onions.  Pour some of the cooking liquid back into the crock pot as well so that your pork doesn’t end up dry.  Add in some more white vinegar (depending on how tangy you like your pulled pork), some more bbq sauce (to your liking) and perhaps another drop of liquid smoke to bring out the smokiness.  Let it all come together in the crock pot for another 20-30 minutes and you’re ready to go!  It’s really that simple (believe me, it is!).

You can serve the pulled pork on its own, inside buns (any kind of bread but will do; we generally tend to use onion hamburger buns), and serve it with any kind of side that’s appropriate for bbq food.  We chose to serve our pulled pork sandwiches with mashed potatoes, but you can certainly do baked beans, corn on the cob, cole slaw (especially a tangy vinegar based cole slaw to compliment the vinegar in the pulled pork), pickles, etc.  My friend served it at our food fest with pickled red cabbage, which everyone thought was just a terrific complement.

This recipe is so simple that while there is a recipe for it, it’s very loosely constructed and really allows for everyone to adjust the amounts, the seasoning, the sauce to suit your own flavors.  Now that’s the way I like to cook!  A basic guideline (not even really worth being called a recipe) and then you just adjust everything to make it your own!

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