Crock-potting pulled pork isn’t ideal, but when it’s cold, or if your landlord isn’t OK with open fire, it happens. Facsimile barbecue is better than no barbecue, especially when it allows for pork-fat barbecue sauce.
It’s possible (and likely) I did not invent this. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t consulted the Internet, and I don’t plan to because I’d rather just let my ego believe I’m special.
I admit crock-potting meat in a sauce isn’t original. Reducing the sauce afterward isn’t original, either. I watched Julia Child do similar things in a 1963 episode of The French Chef. Doing it to make a barbecue sauce might be original (but probably not).
I made my first barbecue sauce about 11 years ago. Sauce 1.0 was a minimally modified Southern Living recipe that I got from my mom. Many iterations followed. The recipe stabilized only in the last two years, and now I have two versions of the same formula. The difference is one has ketchup and one does not. Before Monday, I’d never cooked the sauce and pork at the same time, in the same vessel.
I got the idea by watching someone make a lazy man’s pulled chicken. They tossed pre-cut breasts in a crock pot, dumped in a jar sauce, and waited six hours. I did the same thing but made my own sauce and added fresh rosemary. Then I Frenched it up by doing a reduction.
For my pulled pork and pork-fat barbecue sauce, I combined the sauce ingredients in a warm crock pot, then added a seared, bone-in pork shoulder. When the shoulder finished, I removed it, put the sauce — including the pork chunks I couldn’t tong out of the crock pot — into a saucepan. I reduced the sauce by about half, strained out the chunky bits, leaving a pork fat-and-rosemary-infused barbecue sauce. Not healthy, but delicious.
And when the sauce cools, it is very obviously not healthy. A night in the refrigerator gives you a pork-fat barbecue gelatin that needs a 20-second microwaving for re-use. It’s a little gross — so is the part where you have to spoon off the fat that has, overnight, formed a seal over the gelatin. It is, however, a really pretty orange, and you only have to do that once. In the jar, though, it kind of looks like apple butter.
Directions and sauce ingredients are below.
- Rub a bone-in pork shoulder (about five pounds) with salt, black pepper and light-brown sugar.
- Set the crock pot on high and put the sauce ingredients inside it.
- Sear the pork shoulder with olive oil.
- Put the pork shoulder in the crock pot, where the sauce awaits. Cook until the pork falls off the bone and much of the fat dissolves. It takes about eight hours.
- After the pork is seared, deglaze the plan with water. Add the deglazing to the crock pot.
- When the pork shoulder’s done, remove as much of it as possible from the crock pot and transfer the remaining sauce — including the pork chunks left in the crock pot — to a saucepan.
- Over medium-high heat, reduce the sauce by half, or until it coats a spoon, and stir frequently.
- Strain the sauce.
- Make a sandwich. Use a potato roll.
- 1 cup apple-cider vinegar
- 1 cup Coke
- 1 cup light-brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 T Worcestershire
- 1 lime (just the juice)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (chopped)
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- cayenne pepper
- red-pepper flakes