Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

PulledPorkWe recently replaced our slow-cooker; the old one served for a long and glorious career since the late 60s, having originally been used by Edmund’s mom, who was a cooking teacher, so there was no shame in its finally giving up the ghost.  I bet the new one will not last nearly as long (programmed obsolescence!) but it is larger and more powerful, and it has a timer.  Anyhow, Edmund inaugurated it with a very nice spaghetti sauce before Thanksgiving, and now it’s my turn.

I’d been itching to try this slow-cooker Texas pulled pork recipe from Allrecipes.com; I’d browsed several variants, and this was the one that most appealed to me.  However, I noticed a few caveats.  First, the big mystery ingredient: like most pulled pork recipes, it calls for a generous helping of barbecue sauce.  That seems a bit vague to me, given the huge difference from one sauce to the next.  I like to make my own condiments, and I was reluctant to default to commercial salt-and-corn-syrup-based sauce.

Second, I always like to check the reviews and notes from other cooks and I noted that several reviewers were unhappy with the abundant quantity of liquid produced and the level of sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, or acidity.  It seemed clear that I would have to adjust the taste to suit our preferences, and probably reduce the sauce for serving.

So first, I resolved the issue of barbecue sauce.  I had made a raspberry-chipotle sauce this summer which I’d been very happy with.  And lo and behold, I had about 2/3 of a small can of chipotle peppers left from making a batch of chili the week before Thanksgiving; even better, we had leftovers of the cranberry-orange-raspberry relish which Edmund had made for Thanksgiving, and it was already cooked down to a jelly.  The two together seemed close to my earlier sauce recipe.

So I proceeded thus: throw onion, garlic, fruit relish, and chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce in the food processor, and wazz a bit.  Add half the cider vinegar (I was proceeding cautiously so as not to get too acidic) along with the chicken broth, sweet and hot mustard (I don’t use yellow mustard), Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, and mix some more. I also added about 1 tsp salt because there was no salt from a commercial barbecue sauce and the home-made chicken broth was intentionally made low on salt.

I left out the chili powder because the chipotle peppers were providing plenty of kick already, and the thyme because I only had fresh thyme rather than dried, and fresh herbs don’t do all that well in the slow-cooker.  Besides, much as I love thyme, it didn’t really seem like the herb to go with my other ingredients.

A little taste meant adjusting by adding about 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 2 Tbsp agave nectar (because it mixes so well).  The result was thick, spicy and far less sweet than most pulled pork sauces I’ve tasted, but we’re not big on sweetish barbecue sauces in this house.  I poured the result directly from the food processor bowl into the slow-cooker, spreading it over the pork.

As expected, the cooking produced a lot of liquid so I had to thicken the sauce.  When I pulled out the pork to shred it, I also whisked about 2 Tbsp flour into the sauce, and added 2 Tbsp honey to adjust sweetness a bit more.  But it should not be thickened too much; the shredded pork from the inside of the roast is drier and soaks up a lot of moisture when you put it back in the sauce.

To make this a perfect meal, Edmund made some burger buns— with herbs! — and orange and honey glazed carrots as a side dish.  The resulting dinner was delicious, though I have to say the perfect bread really made it for me.  And the smoky flavour of chipotle peppers in the pulled pork pleased me.

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