To be sure, I could not write about life at Papa’s Pasture without including a couple classic pork-centered recipes. I felt one of them had to be pulled pork, a dish that is high in popularity right now. Besides, it gave me a chance to share a sweet and tangy, vegan green apple slaw that’s a perfect side or topper to this pulled pork and a nice option for the vegetarians (like me) at the table. The pulled pork dish was not super sweet itself; it had more of a rich tomato flavor that was reminiscent of sloppy joes, according to one guest.

Roasting the pork shoulder could not be simpler; however, I went a little wild creating the sauce because… well… the sauce for pulled pork is super important, right? So while there is no “simple” version of my sauce, there are a couple of shortcuts I can share along the way… so be brave!

Apple Jack Pulled Pork

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: At least 10-12 servings

Serving Size: about 1 cup meat and sauce

Apple Jack Pulled Pork

Ingredients

    For the Roast Pork
  • One four-pound pork shoulder roast or pork butt
  • Four tablespoons olive oil
  • Four tablespoons butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Sauce
  • Two-thirds cup apple syrup (I make apple syrup by saving apple peelings and cores in the freezer and then boiling them with honey and water to create a syrup. However, if you want a simpler solution, I think a good apple cider will work just fine. Try to find one that is unfiltered with no added sugar.)
  • One-third cup Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey (Have your own favorite whiskey? Give it a try, but we liked Jack in this recipe.)
  • One cup caramelized shallots (This adds one and a half hours to your prep time, so you can definitely prepare your shallots ahead of time by a couple of days. And if you don’t have shallots, try red onions here.)
  • Six cloves roasted garlic (Again, you can make this ahead by several days. I’m all for keeping extra roasted garlic in the frig for just such an occasion. You’ll need about four tablespoons mashed roasted garlic for the sauce.)
  • One seven-ounce jar tomato paste (no added salt)
  • Two cups fresh tomatoes, chopped and pulsed in a food processor (Too much work? Try a large can of high-quality chopped tomatoes.)
  • One small minced hot pepper, your choice and certainly optional (See the end of the post for more info.)
  • One tablespoon each whole mustard seed and whole coriander, toasted and crushed
  • One teaspoon each whole cardamom seeds and whole black peppercorns, toasted and crushed
  • One tablespoon dark balsamic vinegar (I recommend getting a good high-quality vinegar from a specialty store for this sauce, something aged and reduced to a thick sweet syrup.)
  • One tablespoon unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • One-quarter cup light brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons hickory-smoked dark chocolate (This is totally optional, but if you are game to try it and have a smoker or a friend who does, it’s fun to work with and adds quite the depth of flavor to the sauce. See notes at the end of the post.)

Instructions

    To Roast the Pork
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set your pork roast directly in a large roasting pan and coat with the oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 450 for about 10-12 minutes. You want the roast to brown. Then, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and continue to roast for about two and a half to three hours. You are looking for an internal temperature of no more than 180 degrees (Note below that this is the point in the preparation of the dish where you need to begin preparing the sauce.).
  2. Once the pork is finished, remove it from the pan, retaining all the drippings. Wrap the roast tightly in foil and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour your pan drippings in a gravy separator or refrigerate in a screw top jar in order to separate out your yummy pan drippings from all the fat.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove the roast from the foil and “shred” using a sharp knife and a big fork. If your roast is as tender as mine was, the knife is—pardon the expression—overkill. After all the pork is shredded and any big chunks of excess fat have been removed, work the separated pan drippings back into the meat. Now you are ready to add the meat to your sauce.
  4. To Prepare the Sauce
  5. I suggest having your shallots caramelized, your garlic roasted, cooled and mashed, and your spices toasted and crushed before you stick your roast in the oven. For me, that meant prepping the day before, so however this works for you. Once the roast was in the oven at 325, I dumped all the ingredients for the sauce into my slow cooker, gave it a good stir and turned the heat on low. It bubbled away for the next three hours, marrying all those flavors into a rich, flavorful sauce.
  6. To Finish the Dish
  7. Add the shredded and seasoned pork to the slow cooker full of sauce. Continue cooking for about one hour on low, just to bring it all together.

Notes

How I calculated timing: the prep time does not include caramelizing shallots, which takes about 2 hours; roasting a garlic head, which takes about 1 hour; and toasting and crushing the various spices, which takes about 15 minutes.

This BBQ is excellent with the sweet green apple slaw, which Don used as a topping for his sandwich. Reheats well.

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About the addition of a hot minced pepper…

It’s no secret Don and I like our life on the spicy side. For this sauce, we chose a new pepper we’ve been working with over the summer—a Black Congo, which is rated around 15 or 16 on the Scoville scale. To give you an idea of what that means, a Carolina Reaper is number one for heat–meaning it is currently the hottest pepper  on Earth–and a jalapeno is probably somewhere around a 50. So a Black Congo is nothing wimpy, but not super hot. It is very fruity, and that’s why we chose it here. You decide what pepper works for you, but if go with a Reaper, Trinidad or Ghost, I’d cut the amount to less than a teaspoon. Really.

About that hickory-smoked chocolate…

Gary at the CSA dinner with his smoked chocolate

Gary with his signature Hickory-Smoked Dark Chocolate

Our friend Gary is one of the most creative and brave cooks I know. For the weekly CSA get-together, he’s made savory basil cheesecake for dessert and served it with dry red wine–one of my all-time favorite Wednesday night dishes. And he is into smoking many foods, including dark chocolate. He chooses a large chunk of good-quality chocolate that’s at least 80 percent cacao and places it in the back of his smoker, as far away from the heat as possible. After a few hours, it’s transformed. It’s the not-so-secret ingredient in my Bacon Candy, too, except there the chocolate is smoked with cherry and orange woods for a much milder, sweeter aftertaste. Find a friend with a smoker and you can have a chock-o-lot of fun!

Ordering Your Pork Roast

I really can’t express the trust i have in Blaine Bilyeu, owner of Papa’s Pasture. Having been out to her farm and gotten to know her as both a local vendor and as a friend, I can recommend her pork products without any hesitation–and remember, this is a vegetarian you’re talking to here. If you believe in purchasing only the best quality, humanely raised meat, you can order Blaine’s pork online with a couple of options for pickup or find her at the Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville, which has added a once-a-month winter market beginning November 18. Blaine and I will see you there!

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