Make pulled pork sandwiches using the slow-cooker as a way to tenderize the meat. As someone with TMJ, pork is my worst nightmare. Anything that requires ripping and a lot of chewing isn't worth eating because it's painful and leaves my jaw sore for hours. Plus, the combined texture of the tough meat and chewy fat just doesn't do it for me. You'll see that I trim most of the fat off of the meat before cooking. Technique adapted from Epicurious "Carolina-Pulled-Pork-Sandwiches".
Hypothesis: Slow-cooking pork will make it tender instead of tough
1 3-4 lb. pork shoulder
1 large onion
1 1/2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. canola oil
Things to prepare the night before:
1. Cut the entire pork shoulder into small chunks (however you can do it safely). Remove the bone and trim off the skin and fat.
2. Mix together the ingredients for the rub. Toss the meat with the rub until it is well coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Mix together the ingredients for the broth, but do not add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4. Cut the onion in half. Slice it or dice it, according to your preference.
The day of:
1. Put the meat, onion and broth mixture into your slow-cooker. Add enough water to cover the meat (about 3 cups).
2. Turn the slow-cooker to low and cook for 8 hours.
3. Serve on buns with barbecue sauce.
The meat is tender and fully cooked. The flavor is spicy and tasty.
Discussion and Future Directions
The whole purpose of trying this recipe was to give pork another try. The biggest obstacle ended up being the first step: cutting the meat. It was going well until I realized that what I thought was a thick layer of fat had hair follicles. It was skin! I managed to keep from gagging but did think that vegetarianism might be worth trying. I can handle bones and skin with poultry, but not with pork. Gross.
The recipe itself is quite easy. The prep time is minimal. Because I had prepared everything the night before, all I had to do this morning was pour everything into the slow-cooker, plug it in and turn it to low. After a cold walk home in the rain, it was wonderful to walk into my apartment building and realize that the delicious smell of dinner was coming from my apartment!
The meat was incredibly tender. I could barely get it out of the slow-cooker without it falling apart. The meat was spicy and just flavorful enough. For some, particularly kids, this recipe might be a little acidic. A good way to temper the acid would be to reduce the amount of vinegar. The heat could be reduced by halving the rub.The meat was delicious on a homemade hamburger bun with a little bit of barbecue sauce and some of the broth from the slow cooker. It would have been good with creamy coleslaw or potato salad on the side. Overall, I would consider the recipe a success.
Homemade Hamburger Buns
Makes 8 hamburger buns
3/4-1 cup water
1/3 c nonfat dry milk
1 Tbs. butter
1 1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 oz. whole wheat flour
11 oz. all purpose flour
1 egg white (can add yolk to the dough with the wet ingredients)
1. Mix together water and nonfat dry milk. Heat to 120°. Stir in yeast.
2. Mix together dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until a ball forms.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth and a little tacky, but not sticky or goopy. If it's too sticky, add flour. If it's too stiff and crackly, wet your hands with water and knead in water until it softens up.
4. Move to a well oiled bowl and let it rise until it doubles (about an hour).
5. Pour the dough onto a cutting board and cut it into 8 even pieces. Shape each piece into a lump, then pull dough tightly around itself and pinch the dough together at the bottom. Keep doing this until you have a ball.
6. Set the balls on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and let them rest a few minutes. Press the tops to flatten them slightly. Let rise another hour, or until they start looking puffy. Preheat the oven to 375°.
7. Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash (1 egg white to 1 Tbs. cold water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden.
9. Cool completely before slicing and serving.