Carolina Pulled Pork recipe (with a twist)

Let's talk pork. Now there are Carolina purists out there that may want my head for this, but I put a little twist on their pulled pork recipe that will make you wanna call your momma to tell her 'bout it. Starting with the requisite Boston Butt (a cut of meat that does NOT come from the rear of the animal) in a large roasting pan, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, squeezed the juice of a couple of oranges over it, added a whole cut-in-half head of garlic, then covered and roasted for 6 hours at 250 degrees. What I ended up with was beyond exquisite. After resting for 30 minutes, I grabbed the center bone with 2 fingers and pulled it out as the meat began falling away. I may have been drooling. Tender and moist, I removed it to a cutting board, trimmed the fat and began pulling the meat apart by hand. What I ended up with was a mountain of meat perfumed with hints of the orange and garlic. A nice Florida twist, I thought.

It's not the pork so much that really defines Carolina-style as the sauce. It's all about the vinegar and all about the balance. Vinegar is one of those things that adds so much flavor to a dish that its value cannot be overstated. Too much vinegar in any dish, however, will make people talk about you forever (and not in a good way). I take a LOT of liberty with the vinegar sauce I make here. Starting with a bit of tomato paste and some of the pan drippings over medium heat, I homogenize this before adding a few spices and the vinegar (CAUTION -do not put your nose over a simmering pot of vinegar. You were warned). It then gets added to the pork a little at a time while tasting to make sure the balance is correct. It's vinegary, but won't make you pucker.

Once that is done, the rest is academic. On a roll or bun of your choosing, place a heaping scoop of the meat followed by a generous portion of Cole slaw and serve with a small amount of the extra vinegar on the side. Personally, I cheated and used deli-made slaw, but I do like making my own. I have a jicama slaw recipe that I would love to try with this someday. I used little buns (rolls really) so I ended up with these Pulled Pork and Slaw Sliders. Biting into this sandwich is heaven. Crunchy slaw paired with melt in your mouth meat that has the vinegar as well as the citrus flavors is just over the top. I have to say that this may be my favorite creation in the past year.

If you really feel the need to smoke this because that's how pulled pork is supposed to be, I think that's great. My idea though will work and I would love to share this with any open mined BBQ aficionado. Another big advantage is how easy this was. Even though it cooks for hours, It took me about 5 minutes to get the dish started and about 20 to finish at the end. No fuss.

Carolina Pulled Pork Sliders

For the meat:

4-5 lb Boston Butt

Salt and pepper to taste

3 oranges

Head of garlic, halved lengthwise

1. Preheat oven to 250. Place the pork in a roasting pan fat side up. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the oranges in half, squeeze the juice over the meat and place the orange halves in the pan as well. Add the garlic to the pan.

2. Cover with lid or foil and roast at 250 degrees for 6 hours. Remove from the oven and place meat on cutting board. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan drippings.

For the Vinegar sauce:

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of the orange and garlic infused pan drippings (strained)

In a saucepan, combine the first 6 ingredients over medium heat until the tomato paste becomes fragrant approx. 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and pan drippings and allow to cook while the meat is resting. Remove from heat after about 15 minutes.

After meat rests for 30 minutes, remove the bone and begin pulling the meat apart by hand or with a couple of forks. I tend to pull first then chop because I like the pieces to be small. Add the vinegar sauce to the meat just a little at a time and taste to get the desired vinegar flavor. I imagine about 2/3 cup will be about right but you be the judge.

Assemble onto small rolls with about 2-3 tbsp of pork and about a tbsp of Cole slaw. Serve the vinegar sauce on the side for extra dipping if desired. About 3 sliders per person works as an entrée.

For the few who follow my blog, some might recall that earlier this year I slow-roasted beef ribs in the oven for hours. They were perfectly spiced and fall off the bone tender.

I also smoked some ribs in the backyard for an upcoming Food Network BBQ show to air in the spring. I ended up with about 50 pounds of ribs that I passed out to the neighborhood. The interesting part of the story is that the oven roasted ribs were received with more accolades than the smoked ribs. Personally, I liked the oven ribs better too. While smoking and grilling will always be my preferred method for many cuts of meat, this little find got me thinking. What else could be roasted to perfection that one might only think was BBQ worthy?

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