13 December 2012

slow cooker pulled pork

Winter is not a good season if you're a pig.

Traditionally, hogs have been butchered in early winter. Pigs born in the spring are mature by this time, so a winter slaughter reduces the amount of feed needed for the long, cold season. And, with fewer mouths to feed, farmers are free to sleep in mornings.

Regardless of season, pork has become my favorite type of meat since moving to Canada. It's not that Canadian pork is better than the US, it's more that Canadian beef and lamb are much less tasty than their American counterparts.

Since I've come to eat more pork here, I've also found it to be extremely versatile and varied depending on the cut. On a recent shopping adventure I found boneless pork shoulder roast on sale. Not knowing exactly what to do with it, I bought it on impulse. Once home, I discovered that this is the cut used for pulled pork, a dish I've loved when eaten in the Southern US but never attempted to make until now.

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup root beer
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (4-1/2 to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
3/4 cups reserved cooking liquid

Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the root beer.  Combine the sugar, chili powder, salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and let stand in refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 10 - 12 hours on low.

Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.

Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and reserved cooking liquid; mix to combine.Taste and season with salt as needed.

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