Pulled Pork a Hundred Ways: Recipe 1

I have made pulled pork a few times; usually with a slow cooker and barbecue sauce. It works, but I wanted something better; and something that I can call my own recipe. I thought I’d try a number of different approaches and keep track of what I put in each time and how it tasted. So here’s the inaugural attempt. I don’t own a smoker, so this is (and likely all future attempts will be) a braised pork recipe with BBQ sauce.

The Up-shot

This was not my best pulled pork. It ended up good, but not mouthwatering and, honestly, a little dry.

The pork loin roast I used was two pieces, which helped keep the lard and pork fat hot enough to brown. However, it was trimmed almost to no fat. I think extra fat would have helped the flavor. I browned the fatty side first to render off more fat for browning. If the roast had not already been trimmed I would have just trimmed it myself and used the fat for browning, rather than lard.

Next attempt, I might try brining the roast first. Either by patting with salt and letting it sit at room temperature for an hour, soaking in a brine in the fridge over night (then reducing the amount of liquid in the sauce) or dry-rubbing with some of the spices and salt and letting it refrigerate over night.

I also found the sauce had pretty much lost all character. I think adding something like beer, wine or vinegar during reduction would brighten it up. Of course, this isn’t a very sweet sauce; so perhaps some brown sugar would make it more enjoyable.

The Recipe

2 tablespoons lard
1 boneless, lean pork loin roast (3½ pounds), in two pieces

½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon fennel seed, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole
1 teaspoon peppercorns, whole
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1-½ teaspoons salt
½ medium tomato

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the lard and melt until clear, but not smoking.

Brown each pork roast piece individually on all sides starting with the fatty side. Remove and set aside as pieces are browned.

Lower the heat on the fat and add onions, stirring until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Pour Jack Daniels into the pan and deglaze, being careful to keep the temperature low enough not to boil. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients except a ½ teaspoon salt and the tomato and stir. Cover the casserole, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Immediately add the roast pieces, fat side up, and keep over medium heat until the liquid is simmering.

Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and cook until the roast can be pulled apart with a fork, about two hours, turning meat halfway through cooking.

Remove the pork to a bowl. Strain the sauce, reserving the liquid to cool. Add the solids, a little liquid, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the half tomato to a blender and blend until smooth.

Using a pair of forks, split the pork into strands.

When the broth has cooled, skim fat off the top.

Bring the broth to a simmer, whisk in the puree from the blender and simmer until reduced to half the volume. Pour this sauce into the pork and mix thoroughly. Continue to mix, periodically, until you serve to ensure that the pork absorbs as much of the liquid as possible.

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