Friday, June 12, 2009



This will be my last Food Friday for a while. After we serve what's pictured above tomorrow at our farewell party, we'll be packing our last-minutes things, including computers, and will be living mostly with pre-computer communications until we're hooked up again in North Carolina, supposedly sometime during the week of June 22, but we'll see how that goes. I hope you'll have me to kick around until next Wednesday, anyway. But on Friday we'll be on the road.

Real barbecue is not something I grew up with. I came to the joys of smoked pork in all its various forms relatively late--sometime in my 30s-- I can't really remember when I first had it. Once I did, though, there was no turning back, and while my first taste of it came via the usual "sweet" school, probably made with store-bought, sugar-based sauce (and I liked it!) there was a more determined no turning back once I learned about Eastern Carolina-style vinegar-based barbecue mops. It's now the only way I do barbecued pork in any form.

I've shied away from sharing this recipe in the past because it requires special equipment (a water smoker) and lots and lots of time. Ideally, the meat will rest in a spice rub overnight, and then it will take the better part of a day to smoke. It's definitely a special occasion treat, but it's always a hit at the occasion.

If you don't have a water smoker, you can certainly do this on a kettle grill and get almost the same results, and in less time, though the moistness provided by the water smoker won't be there (the meat itself is so tender, though, that this is not a big problem), and less cooking time means less exposure to the smoke flavor. I'd certainly do it in a pinch and not complain about the results. (I guess it even can be done on a gas grill with a smoke box but I've never tried it.)

1 pork shoulder, bone-in, 6-8 lbs.
*Spice rub

Cut crisss-cross gashes across fat cap of pork deep enough to reach the meat below the fat. Coat meat thoroughly with rub and massage it in thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove plastic and bring meat to room temperature before putting it on the smoker.

Prepare smoker: soak mesquite or hickory (or your choice) chunks in water while coals heat. Completely fill charcoal pan at bottom of smoker with charcoal and light. Allow to heat until all the charcoal is tinged with gray. Add wood chunks. Place pan full of water on rack above the heat source, put meat rack in place above the water and place pork shoulder on the rack. Cover and allow meat to smoke at least 5 hours, or until a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat reads 160 degrees. Check charcoal level every three hours or so and add more as needed, and add wood chunks as they burn away. Open the smoker as seldom as possible in order to preserve heat and not further prolong cooking time.

When meat is done, remove it from smoker to a large bowl and mop with sauce. Allow meat to cool enough so you can work with it, then pull the meat off the bone and either tear it into chunks with the grain, or (easier) cut it into chunks. Lightly chop the meat in a food processor so that some bite-size chunks remain, put in a large bowl, and pour mop to taste over. Taste for salt. Reheat, either in the microwave (my preferred method) or in a sheet pan, covered with foil to prevent drying, in a 350-degree oven for 30 mintues.

Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite coleslaw, either on the side or as a topping.

*Spice rub:
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, whatever you have)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 heavy teaspoon black pepper

Shake well to combine, stores indefinitely in a cool dry place

1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
a few drops tabasco (optional)

Shake to combine, store indefinitely in refrigerator.


Jeff said...

Hey Ralph - you're definitely tempting me here! :)

By the way, I finally found that link in how to turn your Weber Kettle Grill into a basic water smoker:

Takes a *lot* of time and attention - have to try it on a lazy Sunday...

- J.

Ralph said...

That looks like a sensible method, Jeff, except I know closing all the vents on my Weber makes the fire go completely out---that's how I conserve and re-use my charcoal. I'd have to experiment with how wide to keep the vents open. I also never imagined there'd be room for two pans of water under the meat, but there must be, according to the pictures. I'll try this with some ribs next time I want to smoke something. I always use the indirect heating method anyway, so for me this isn't that much of a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff, I'll try it, sounds super delicious. Thanks Ralph and go cash that equity check, get moving down that road. Don't look back. Best to you & Steve, ZoZo and Me.

Ralph said...

Thanks, ZZ&M. One week from tonight we will be sleeping for the first time as residents of NC. This is a very big weekend--Steve's last daye of or work and our last one in this house. At this point the weather appears it will be cooperative. I'll take pics!

auntympaugh said...

Yum...I love that recipe. Guess we'll have to break down and buy a smoker. We had one that we didn't use much, when we lived in VA, but now with your recipe and this great recipe for brisket that I have seen, it's probably time to think about getting one again!
Your Pulled Pork will go over BIG in NC, for sure!

Hope that your new "days of transition" go well for both of you, especially for Steve who is transitioning out of a job AND a home...we did OK with it in Jan. '03 and I'm sure you will, too! Safe travels!!

Hugs, Marilyn and Wayne

Anonymous said...

Son Jon to do the honors with this recipe on his smoker next weekend. We will be talking about your sale and the trip south. Maybe get a chance to make you and Steve official rednecks when your new house is ready. We'll see. It's a tough club to be a member of. You might need a trailer or junky car for your front lawn. Best, Z&Me

Ralph said...

Thanks, Marilyn. Yeah, I don't use the smoker a lot, but it's great for a special occasion. I've seen a brisket recipe recently myself I'd like to try. I think I'dd do ribs for the NC foks first before I somoke a shoulder.

Onward and upward....

Ralph said...

LOL! Z&M, I'll probably be offline when you try the recipe, but I won't forget! I'll be asking how it went as soon as I'm back up!

Working on a good sunburn for my neck!