Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summertime and the feeding is easy.

Each year my husband’s family gets together for their annual reunion.  This is no casual spur of the moment get together.  It takes a fair amount of planning and commitment.  His 6 siblings and their families make the head count 29.  Each year one sibling takes the responsibility of organizing the week -long reunion which includes the challenging task of finding a rental that can accommodate such a large group.  Then cooking nights are assigned.   In the beginning when we were a slightly smaller group, dinners were a bit more ambitious.  Now no one wants to spend an entire day in the kitchen, and cooking for so many requires streamlined menus that can be easily adapted for different diets or food allergies. Although most are meat eaters, there are a handful of both vegetarians and glutards (our affectionate label). 

This year’s kitchen was postage stamp small,  so with this in mind, our cooking group chose to do pulled pork sandwiches.  For the vegetarians we substituted veggie burgers with barbeque sauce.  Then we rounded out the meal with coleslaw and potato salad.

Pulled pork is a wonderful thing!  You can make it in advance, allowing the cook to relax, and slowly teasing appetites for hours with the lovely smell of roasting pork (well maybe not for  vegetarians).  The spice rub and the barbeque sauce can be made days ahead and all you have to do is put the pork in the oven the night before serving.  You can even cook the pork a day or two ahead and keep it in the fridge.  Then heat it covered in a 250-300 degree F oven.
Now here is the thing about selecting the pork. You want the part of the shoulder called the “butt.”  Why wouldn’t it be called something less confusing? I don’t know. Generally this cut averages 6 to 8 pounds and if you can get one with the bone in go for it.  It adds to the flavor.  

I found the pork rub in The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining by Cheryl & Bill JamisonThis is a great book that offers sidebars with lots of helpful information.  We doubled the recipe for our two butts (that's just so weird to type).

Sweet Southern Pork Rub
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/2 cup sweet paprika
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoons cayenne
1 to 2 teaspoons cumin

Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl.  Massage the pork well with about half of the rub. Transfer the pork to a zippered plastic bag, seal and refrigerate it overnight.  
Remove the pork from the refrigerator.  Pat the butt with another coating of the rub.  Let the pork sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Optional- Pour approximately 2 cups of liquid into the roasting pan to keep the pork moist and control the drippings from smoking on the bottom of the pan.  The liquid can be water, broth, apple juice or cider.  

Heat the oven to 220 degrees F.  Cook for 10 to 12 hours, tenting the pork with foil the last few hours in the oven.  Cook the pork until tender and falling off the bone.

Let the pork sit tented for about an hour, until it is cool enough to handle.  Discard the fat and bones.  Shred or chop the pork as you wish.  Finish by adding the barbecue sauce to taste (recipe below) to the shredded pork.
We chose the barbecue sauce from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  Of course you can always buy the sauce, but this recipe is so easy to make.  The nice thing about making your own sauce is that you can tweak it to suit your taste.  And most of these ingredients tend to already be on hand.

Barbecue Sauce 

makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons light or dark molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook to room temperature.  The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week or frozen for up to 2 months.

The patriarch enjoying his crossword puzzle.