Pulled pork: Food for all seasons

Making your own pulled pork is a rewarding project for a cold day.
Photo by Kaylea Moore

Making your own pulled pork is a rewarding project for a cold day.

I love pork: bacon, ribs, chops, loin, belly, you name it. But there’s nothing quite like pulled pork. Traditionally made from the shoulder of the hog, or the upper part of the shoulder called pork butt or Boston butt, the pork is slow-roasted at a low temperature to create a crispy bark protecting tender meat. Pulled pork combines a myriad of flavors to satisfy any basic craving. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter with a touch of smokiness is the ultimate palate pleaser.

In the United States, barbecue sauce is broken down by region. Types of meat, cuts of meat, cooking methods, rubs and sauces vary from state to state and even town to town. Kansas City is known for its sticky sweet tomato-based sauce, North Carolina favors a vinegar-heavy sauce, and South Carolina likes mustard to play the main part. In Texas and Memphis, barbecue is more focused on the rub than the sauce. And while Texas prides itself on its beef for barbecue, in the Carolinas pork is preferred.

If you have a hankering this winter, here is a selection of Island restaurants offering up this delicacy:

Head to The Newes from America Pub in Edgartown, for their slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich with housemade BBQ sauce, crispy onions, and cheddar cheese on a bulky roll.

In Oak Bluffs, Offshore Ale’s pulled pork sandwich is slow cooked overnight in a blend of their homemade root beer and nut brown ale. Only available on the lunch menu, the pork is mixed with a honey BBQ sauce and served on a bulky roll.

You can get pulled pork on just about anything at Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. The honey-BBQ pulled pork sandwich is made with braised pulled pork, house BBQ sauce, and topped with slaw. If you are in the mood for sharing, try the BBQ pulled pork sliders or the Killa’ BBQ Nachos, made with honey-BBQ pulled pork, cheese, pinapple-mango killa’ salsa, and coleslaw. Add pulled pork to quesadillas, burritos, tacos, and salads if you’re in the mood for more.

Zephrus in Vineyard Haven puts their pulled pork on soft tacos, served with roasted garlic pico de gallo, cabbage and cilantro slaw.

And Alchemy in Edgartown offers carnitas style pork tacos with jicama salad, green chilies, caramelized cabbage, and lime crème fraîche.

For more pork, check out the Sausage Festival this Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Ag Hall. From 10 am to 1 pm, participate in a sausage-making workshop with Jefferson Munroe of The GOOD Farm. The cost is $45 and includes a hands-on demo, tasting, sausages to take home, and a half-price ticket to the night’s event, The Meat Ball.

Starting at 6 pm, enjoy a sausage dinner with FARM Institute sausage and sauerkraut made from Morning Glory Farm cabbage, as well as other side dishes. Bring your own place settings, drinks, and dancing shoes, and enjoy music by The Daytrippers from 7:30 to 10 pm. The Meat Ball costs $25 per adult or $40 for two adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. For more information or to sign-up for the sausage making workshop, call 508-627-7007.

Make your own pulled pork

Though this might not be an authentic pulled pork recipe that requires roasting overnight and smoke penetrating the meat, it is a good alternative, especially during a snowstorm when you’re not leaving your house.

This past weekend, I picked up a five-pound boneless pork butt and created a rub out of whatever I had in my pantry (see recipe below). Make sure the rub hits every crevice and place the pork fat side up in your desired cooking vessel. Let it marinate for as little as an hour or up to overnight in the fridge (let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking). Lay the pork on a bed of sliced onions in a Dutch oven (you can also use a crock pot). Let it cook low and slow, at 300 degrees for about 4 to 6 hours. It should be fork tender when it’s done. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before you shred and toss with sauce.

I used Portuguese sweet bread rolls that absorb liquid but don’t become too soggy. Since I was using a sweet roll, I decided on a sour vinegar sauce (see recipe below). I made a slaw out of red cabbage, Vidalia onion, carrot, and cilantro, which added a freshness and crunch. Lastly, I made a quick pickle that crowned the sandwich with a salty finish.

Use leftover pork, cabbage, and cilantro in pork tacos the next day. Create a sauce with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and chipotles and toss with pork (see recipe below). Heat up corn tortillas, and garnish with cabbage, cilantro, lime, and crema.

Rub

3 Tbs. paprika

3 Tbs. kosher salt

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cayenne

Combine and rub on pork.

Vinegar BBQ Sauce

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cayenne

Combine all ingredients and simmer on medium heat until sauce is consistency of a thin syrup.

Sauce for tacos

1 yellow onion, thickly sliced

2 garlic cloves

1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes

Chipotles in Adobe

In a hot dry pan, blacken onion and garlic cloves. Peel garlic cloves and puree in a blender with onions, tomatoes and chipotle (add chipotle to taste). Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a pot and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes. Toss with pork.