Friday, November 18, 2011

Pulled Pork

Just attended the Friday lunch at the The Centre for Co-operative and Community-Based Economy up at UVic, something I've been doing for a couple of months now. It is one of those things that reminds me that I have an intellectual life as well as an everyday life—and that's a good thing. Sometimes I forget, as the days fill up with the clutter of activities around dogs, the Kitchen and the basics of staying alive. Lunch at the Centre reminds me that I have been trained to think critically and to communicate my thoughts clearly. I may be a bit out of practise, but that doesn't mean giving up on who I am.
One of the things I love about attending is that it gives me the chance to cook for a group that is bigger than just Paula, and smaller than the crowd at the Kitchen. There is a lunch supplied, but I'm welcome to supplement it, which I have done by making soup and stew a couple of times. Today was a slightly larger group than usual, about 20, and I pulled out some pork rib trimmings and made pulled pork, which were served on a slider bun from Portofino bakery. Apparently the pork was flavoured properly, as there were no leftovers (and I saw at least one person make it through three servings—very gratifying!), and after lunch I was asked a couple of times for the recipe. This is really gratifying, as it lets me know that I'm not just getting good at cooking for my own taste, but that my taste translates into good flavours for others palate.
So, as promised, here's my Cheap and Easy Pulled Pork recipe.

Bernie's Pulled Pork (easy version) 

Start with a cheap bit of pork. I found rib trimmings at Real Canadian Wholesale Club out in Esquimalt for about $2/kg, and I bought a lot. You know, because it was cheap and only about half of it was usable meat.
Braise the meat. Braising is cooking meat in a wet environment in a closed container. So toss the meat in a roaster or a foil-covered pan (the roaster is better). Add a braising mix; I used balsamic vinegar (75 ml), white wine (250 ml), tomatoes (six or so plum) a couple of bay leaves, some salt, pepper, star anise, cloves, whole allspice, some rough-chopped carrots (scraped), celery, and probably a couple of other things I noticed laying around. The wine and vinegar and tomatoes are essential, for their acidity, but everything else is random and optional. Put the lid on the pan and place it in a 175° C (350° F) oven for a couple of hours. Take it out when is smells great and is falling apart.
Don't throw away the braising liquid—it is incredibly flavourful! Strain it into a pot, toss the hard bits, and boil hard until the volume is reduced by half or more. Taste. Yeah, that's umami. Normally you'd use it as a sauce on the braised meat, but today is different. Put it away for tomorrow.
Shred the pork. Pull it off the bone and tear it between two forks. You're pretty much done. Put the shredded pork in a pot—I like to use a slow cooker. Now dump a bottle of BBQ sauce over it. I used Bulls-Eye Guinness flavoured for today's, but that's not essential. Whatever you have or is cheap is fine. It just saves you having to make your own. Mix the sauce and meat together and begin heating it up. Taste it. It's probably too sweet, so add a bit of balsamic vinegar. Keep flavouring it until you're satisfied. I used a little Lee and Perrin's Worcestershire Sauce with the balsamic, and some fig and balsamic glaze. Don't go overboard, but don't be afraid. You're looking for the perfect marriage of sweet and acid to bring out the umami of the braised shredded pork.
Let the whole pot simmer at about 70° C (160°F) for a while. Keep testing. If there's any left, serve on a fresh bun. Accept compliments.

Want to do the complex version? Make your own BBQ sauce without using any prepared ingredients (like ketchup). There you go.

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