Friday, August 15, 2008

Barbecued Pork Shoulder

Our visit to Dennise and Andy Wright's farm outside Hart, Michigan, on Wednesday yielded a 4-lb, bone-in pork shoulder from their small herd of Tamworth pigs. The Tamworth is an old breed of pig, brown and hairy. They were romping happily in their pasture enclosure when we visited, rooting and wallowing and bathing in their watering tank. I was anxious to taste one and my favorite cut is the shoulder for its deep, unctuous pork flavors. This is the preferred cut for pork barbecue.

Somehow I needed to turn this shoulder into a meal for a dozen people. A classic pulled pork seemed like the obvious choice, although I am far from home and my cooking utensil would have to be the old, rusting Charbroil gas grill on my parents' deck. I would convert it into a smoker by lighting just one of the gas burners, setting it to the lowest possible heat and placing a small aluminum of mesquite chips (no hickory available here in Pentwater) over the burner.

Seasoning the roast also was an improvisation using what was available in the spice cabinet: fajita seasoning, garlic salt, cumin powder, chili powder, some smoke rub, kosher salt, ground black pepper. I mixed about 1/2 cup and massaged it liberally into the meat. Set the meat in a small roasting pan and into the gas grill over the unlit burner.

The pork would cook like this for five hours uncovered (meaning the lid of the grill closed, but nothing covering the meat). After basting the meat every half hour with the pan juices I wrapped the roasting pan in aluminum foil and cooked it another hour just to get the pork good and moist. After cooling on a cutting board for 30 minutes, I removed the bone (it slid away easily) and chopped the meat into small pieces.

I prefer a Carolina-style mustard sauce for this treatment. I poured the pan juices into a sauce pan and skimmed off the fat (about half the liquid). That left about a cup of juice, to which I added perhaps 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons yellow mustard and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Whisk this well, then bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two. Mix the sauce with the meat to taste, or until the pork is just wet enough to hold together and sit on a hamburger bun without falling off (a potato roll would be even better).

Serve any leftover sauce on the side with your favorite cole slaw and corn on the cob.

The Tamworth Pork was worth the trip to find it: dark, fatty and flavorful. There was not a lick leftover. This was leagues ahead of any pork you can find in a store, and everyone noticed.


Julia said...

It's only 7am and my mouth is watering! That sounds delicious!

Sharon said...

I'm Jewish so don't eat pork, but it does sound good ..... (emoticon implied).

Erica said...

Wow, that does sound good!!

Ed Bruske said...

Julia, it was even better than I described it. Local pork is always a surprise, and usually better than you expect.

Sharon, I won't try to tempt you to switch religeons. All I can say is, you don't know what you're missing.

Erica, I wish I had another of those pull-pork sandwiches right now.