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The finished pork, awaiting the caress of a roll.

I don’t know about you, but here at Garlic Press we like us some Bar-B-Que with a ferocious passion that goes nearly unmatched by any of the other loves in our lives (and we are a passionate bunch when it comes to good eating and drinking, among other things…) I’ve wanted to take a crack at making some pulled pork for a long time, however a certain somebody that I share living space with is not a fan of this style of BBQ. Sacrilege I tell you! Fortunately for my taste buds I found myself in a house with no food to speak of (thanks to recent snow storms…) and a girlfriend who was away all week watching her sister. This was the perfect opportunity to whip something awesome up. I figured you can’t really screw up pulled pork too badly on a first pass, and it would leave me with something delicious to eat for the rest of the week. With that in mind I dug my car out (finally) and went to Wegmans to acquire the necessary goods that I didn’t already have. So anything but spices, but the beauty here is that it’s not really an overly complicated ordeal to bring this together in terms of ingredients.

I had already settled on needing something mildly spicy, as compared with my normal ingestion of wildly hot food (more to come on that front in the near future) so, while I considered obtaining hotter peppers, I settled on a big bag of dried Chile de Arbol peppers that I have at home. They provided the proper heat and flavor – I can’t endorse using anything else in retrospect. On a side note, I love Wegmans – it’s nearly impossible to go in and buy just what you need. Anyhow, since this recipe takes all day to cook, and it was now late afternoon, I opted to make it the following day. I engaged a friend, Luis, to stop by and join me before he takes a long trip and he was certainly happy to provide some company on the vague promise of some form of delicious dinner – food like this is best enjoyed with others.

Before we get to how to whip this up, let me share this: I expected to like the pulled pork if only because I had been dreaming of having some for weeks, and beyond that I hoped it would actually be delicious. It turned out perfect, so good in fact that Luis demanded that upon his return I remake it so we can sit down and try our hand at eating a whole batch at once – a measly ~5 lbs of BBQ between two people – at his expense. I look forward to it. I also look forward to eating this for every meal until it’s gone (it was already consumed for breakfast, lunch and another dinner prior to completing this write up, so I’m well on my way.) With that self-glorification and four straight meals of pork out of the way, let me share with you how to create this symphony of sweet, spicy, tangy and porky on your palate that (if you’re like me) will give you an intense food buzz… or maybe that was the Nugget Nectar Luis and I were drinking in anticipation. Either way, win!

Ingredients:

  • Pork shoulder roast (whatever fits in your slow cooker, I got 8 lbs and cut it roughly in half to make it fit)
  • Grill seasoning (I used my own, any grill seasoning would be fine here)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 green pepper
  • Numerous dried Chile de Arbol
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Malt vinegar
  • Tabasco
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce
  • Rolls
  • Corn starch

Method:

Slice onions and chop green peppers and pull out a number of chiles, whatever you are comfortable with. I like things quite hot so I used two palm-fulls. Drop about half of the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker, along with some of the chile peppers. Place pork roast on top of this and cover with grill seasoning.

Drop the rest of the peppers, onions and chiles on top of the pork and pour the apple cider over it. Grab the Tabasco and malt vinegar and give a few good shakes of each on top of everything. I also gave a few extra shakes of crushed red pepper for good measure.

Seal up your slow cooker and set it to high and a timer for 6 hours. Find something entertaining to do…

If you do this on the weekend, or work at home as I do, be prepared for an increasingly delicious smell to waft in from your cooking area. After 6 hours are up, pop open your slow cooker for an awesome site:

Push the vegetables to the side and remove pork to a separate bowl. Clean any fat off the bottom and shred it as best as possible with a couple of forks and a knife. Pour the rest of the contents of the slow cooker through a strainer and retain the juices. Place drippings in a container and put in the freezer to allow the fat to congeal. Dump the onions and peppers in with the pork and combine well – they should fall to pieces and mix in nicely. Add BBQ sauce to taste – I used about half of a 28 oz bottle. If you don’t have access to Sweet Baby Ray’s be sure to use a somewhat sweet sauce as it compliments the tangy heat that the peppers have imparted very nicely. Mix well and return to the slow cooker. Set to high for 5-10 minutes to bring to a near-boil, then mix well with a spoon and set to low or keep warm and let sit for at least another hour and don’t touch it.

After 30 minutes or so the fat should have solidified out of the drippings, scrape it off or pour through it as your health needs dictate and warm slowly in a saucepan. When volume has gone down slightly, 15 or so minutes, whisk in a touch of corn starch to thicken the sauce and get some rolls in the toaster. From here it’s all up to you. I ran my forks through the pork one more time to shred it a bit further, then piled it high on a roll with a little extra Ray’s and some of the sauce and served it up with some freshly steamed broccoli, coleslaw from Wegmans and a pickle. As this is a hot dish I suggest a pale ale at least, and if you go hotter as I did an IPA will help cut the sauce so you can enjoy every bite. Enjoy!

I know it's not the best shot, but whatever. It was dinnertime.

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From the Checkered Pig Fan Page

Amazing Brisket is a Rare and Beautiful Thing

Brisket is easily my favorite food ever, and I take it upon myself to seek it out anywhere I go in the United States. From New York to South Carolina and all the way out to Chicago, the nation is falling in love with barbecue, and I am both an evangelist and critic of this slow-cooked succulent style of preparing meat. Without hashing out the history and minutia of barbecue,  it involves smoking meat and cooking it over low heat (except in the North, where it is generally cooked with direct heat) producing a smoky, juicy product that is more tender and delicious than the particular cut could otherwise be.

With brisket, the process is especially important because the cut comes from the breast of the cow and it is full of connective tissue and dense muscle. However, connective tissue results in big flavor when it breaks down with fats and saturates the surrounding meat. As a result, what starts as the toughest part between the hoofs and horns can transform into a truly magnificent piece of beef. The very nature of the cut is such that good and mediocre preparations are miles apart. In my experience, most barbecue restaurants don’t make very good brisket. Either they rush it, over- or under- season it, cut corners in smoking or preparation, or at times they just don’t understand the cut, and then in the end the brisket will be dry, tough, and flavorless.

The Pig is King

As I mentioned, when I travel I make a point of eating at barbecue restaurants whenever I come across them. So far I haven’t had the pleasure of testing the barbecue in either Oklahoma or Texas, which is a problem I hope to remedy. Brisket was originally a cowboy cut,  and I imagine it is very good in Texas. That being said, the best barbecue places I have found are a Texas style barbecue restaurant in Kentucky (the name of which I now forget), and surprisingly (for me, anyway) a small place in my home town. On a trip to visit my family over the summer I discovered the Checkered Pig, and my life has changed. Well, at least my standards in good brisket have changed.

Dinner

Checkered Pig is apparently named for, and equally well known for ,their pork shoulder – but who cares when the brisket is this good. Don’t get me wrong, the pork is great, and they win awards for that as well, but the brisket is so good I will literally eat it all day. In fact, last week I did eat Checkered Pig’s brisket all day. I went to the Danville location for lunch and settled up to a New Castle, a brisket sandwich, and fries. The Brown Ale is great with brisket, but that’s beside the point. The sandwich is cheap and piled high with brisket in a regular bun with a bit of sauce. It is strictly a no-frills affair, and for good reason. Even with a slosh of the excellent house-made hot sauce and BBQ sauce, I could easily bite cleanly through the sandwich without losing brisket on either end, a rare feat for a dish like this.

The ease with which I ate my meal speaks to the tenderness and texture and quality of the meat. The texture is perfect – just a little spring on the tooth and then it melts on the tongue. The taste is buttery, smoky, spicy, and beefy. Looking at a slice of the meat you can see a distinct thick pink smoke ring all the way around, and you can taste the time and effort that went into creating that marker of good smoked meat. The bark (or ‘crust’ for the non-barbecue-aficionados) is crunchy, subtle, and full of flavor. You can easily detect paprika, onion, garlic, sugar, molasses (likely from brown sugar,) and many other spices. It is beefy perfection between bread.

The Numbers

Taste 5 of 5

Appearance 5 of 5

Texture 5 of 5

Then I Went Back For More…

The brisket is so good, in fact, that after it settled I got back in my car and went to their drive-through for dinner. Yes, it is so popular, they need a drive-through window in addition to the main restaurant. Sadly, state law prohibited them from passing me a six-pack through the window along with my dinner. The above photo was my dinner – well, there were also fries, a sweet potato, and hush puppies, all delicious in their own right –  but who wants to hear about starch when there’s a steaming delicious pound of meat on the plate. In short, if you’re ever in Martinsville or Danville, VA,  GO TO CHECKERED PIG. If you live in Greensboro, NC, just hop on 29 N, and Checkered Pig is less than an hour away.

For more information (and barbecue worship) check them out on Facebook. The previous post on The Garlic Press is a video of the guys from the Checkered Pig in competition.

Checkered Pig on Urbanspoon