The HMS Pork Shoulder was set to sail on Sunday evening, so I started the project on Friday, stripping the skin from the 10-lb shoulder (a harrowing process i hope to repeat as little as possible) and docking it in a heavily salted and seasoned brine. I left it mostly unattended in the refrigerator for the next 24 hours, after which I drained it, patted it dry, gave it a nice massage with lots of spice rub, and put it in my preheated 225 degree oven. And there it stayed for the next 16 hours or so in the company of a shallow pan of water one rack below.
The REAL fun began about 10 hours later, though, when the sweet, spicy smell of the roasting meat began to drift lazily through the apartment, coaxing us gently into the waking world with its savory fingers.
I am hard-pressed to find another reason that I would so cheerfully wake at 6:30 on a Sunday morning.
But, wake I did, and from then on the great chunk of meat required a bit more of my attention--though I'd covered it in foil, it needed basting (with bourbon and pan drippings) every couple of hours and a near-constant monitoring of its internal temperature. When it hit 200, I turned off the oven and let the meat cool down in tandem with it. This is key--the slow cooling helps keep the moisture in.
Once it was cool enough to touch, i went after it with a pair of forks (though not before i rather stupidly tried to remove it from the roasting pan using the bone as a handle--if your pork is cooked properly, the bone will just fall right out), shredding it into a savory filigree that went gorgeously with the Cross-Bronx barbecue sauce (so named because the flavors are a riff on the famous Manhattan cocktail, made ghetto fabulous by the use of black cherry soda), sticky onion relish, and copious quantities of liquor and good company.
So what did I learn? Pulled pork is awesome. Slow and low is key. There is something viscerally delightful about being able to subdue a cut of meat using a spoon. And bourbon makes everything better.
(but I already knew that.)
1 8-10 lb, bone-in pork shoulder, skin removed
½ part kosher salt
½ c brown sugar
2 quarts cold water
½ c spice rub
½ c brown sugar
½ kosher salt
36 hours before serving:
- prepare the brine.
- Place the pork shoulder inside a 2-gallon, zip-top bag
- Pour the brine over the pork, ensuring that it’s completely submerged.
- Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally for up to 24.
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow roasting dish filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Remove the pork from the brine and place in a roasting dish. Pat surface dry.
- Cover entire surface with remaining spice rub mixture—really massage it in, and be sure to get it inside/under any flaps you might encounter.
- Place in oven until the meat hits 200 degrees at the thickest part—approximately 1.5-2 hours per pound. Check on it every few hours to ensure that there is liquid in the bottom of the roasting dish; baste with this liquid (or, if you’re feeling feisty, add a little bourbon to the mix) every four hours or so. Remove the water pan from step one after it’s run dry.
- When the meat hits the target temperature, Turn off the oven. Loosely cover the pork, and allow to rest for two hours.
- Tear that sucker apart with forks. Serve it with the Cross-Bronx barbecue sauce.
CROSS BRONX BARBECUE SAUCE
1 c onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 20 oz bottle of ketchup
½ c bourbon
½ jar cherry preserves
10 oz black cherry soda
¼ c orange juice
¼ c dry vermouth
¼ c balsamic vinegar
½ c brown sugar
- In a deep saucepan, sauté the onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter over medium heat, until just translucent (about 6 min).
- Add the garlic; sauté for another minute
- Add ketchup, bourbon, preserves, soda, juice, vermouth, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer until reduced by half, so it’s nice and thick.