Monday, July 15, 2013

Pulled Pork

I do love a bit of barbecue. For me, the weather doesn't need to be doing what it's doing right now (blazing, eyeball melting sunshine) to make me want to tear open a bag of charcoal, light it up, and introduce some meat to the resulting heat.

It's not just about sausages and burgers for me; anything you can cook in a normal oven you can cook on a barbecue, it's just about knowing how.

Some food tastes better from a barbecue than it can ever taste done in an oven, and I want to share one of those things here: pulled pork.

It's a long time favourite in the US barbecue belt, and it's becoming very popular in the UK too. I've been doing it for the last couple of years now, it's simple, easy and delicious.

My recipe is adapted from the Weber Complete Barbecue Book, which you should buy if you want to progress from incinerating sausages.

Here we go then.


The Meat:

1 Pork shoulder joint - a 2.5-3kg one will serve about eight people, generously.

The Rub:

2 tbsp mild chilli powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp sea salt
4 teaspoons garlic granules
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh ground celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard powder

The Sauce:

275ml tomato ketchup
175ml cider vinegar
100ml lemonade (not diet)
50g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of your favourite hot sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


8 big soft white rolls
A big tub of coleslaw, or make your own (I can't usually be bothered...)

How You Do It:

First off, if you don't have a smoker, you can do this in an oven. It won't have the benefit of being smoked, but it will still be tender and lovely. It just won't be quite as lovely, and you can't pretend to be a Good Ol' Boy in North Carolina while you're cooking. Sorry, that's just how it is.

Mix all the ingredients for the rub together in a small resealable tub, like this:

All ready to rub your meat. Fnarr.
You may use all of it, but if you don't, it'll keep until next time (and there will be a next time, this stuff's addictive).

Take your pork shoulder and use a good sharp knife to trim the skin off. You should leave a layer of fat, around a centimetre thick if possible. This will help keep the meat moist while it cooks. I haven't left a layer of fat in a couple of spots on mine, because my knife skills are WEAK.

A big lump of pig. Skinned.
Place the meat in a nice big bowl, with room to move it around. Pour some rub over the top of the meat, like in this amazing action shot:

Then, rub (obviously) the rub into the meat. Don't be shy. You want the rub to coat the meat, but also to penetrate it as much as possible. Really work it in there. Get it into all the nooks and crannies, like this:

Once it's all nicely coated in the rub, cover the bowl in cling film. If you're going to be cooking it in the next few hours, leave it out to come up to room temperature. If not, pop it back in the fridge.

If you have a smoker, the next thing to do is set it up for a twelve hour cook. For my smoker, this means filling the coal basket with Weber briquettes, and filling the chimney starter with them too. I find that 7kg of briquettes will reliably give me twelve hours of heat. Light the coals in the chimney, and when they're ready (a coating of white ash) pour them over the top of the unlit coals in the basket. This is known as the "Minion Method", where the coals light over a long period of time, maintaining an even temperature. Throw a handful of soaked hickory wood onto the coals, to generate the smoke.

Fill the water bowl almost to the top with hot water. Don't use cold, as this means the coals have to heat the water up before the smoker reaches cooking temperature.

You want the smoker to be at a temperature between 200 and 250 fahrenheit for the duration of the cook. If you do it right you can pretty much leave it to do its thing for the whole cook. If it goes a bit wrong you'll need to fiddle with the vents to adjust the temperature and maybe add more coal too. This is a ball ache, especially if you're doing an overnight cook, because you won't know it's gone wrong until the morning, by which point it's too late.

Once the smoker's at temperature, pop the meat in, and go and relax for ten hours (I tend to start the cook at about midnight, and go to bed)

If you're using an oven, set the temperature using your fancy thermostat and wait for it to be ready. Pull a smug face at the people using a barbecue. Pop the meat in the oven, in a roasting tin.

After ten hours, the internal temperature of the meat should be around 190 fahrenheit. Check it with an instant read thermometer, which you can buy for about a tenner. 

It'll look a bit like this:

Take the meat out and wrap it in foil for the last two hours of cooking. 

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan and heat it gently, stirring it to mix it all together. It's supposed to be thin, tart and a bit spicy.

Once the meat's been cooking for twelve hours, leave it to rest in the foil for half an hour, then unwrap it.

You should be able to pull the meat apart easily using your fingers, or use two forks. Remove the layer of fat from the top and pick out any large lumps of fat or sinew.

If you're writing a blog post about the recipe, completely forget to take any pictures of the meat as you tear it apart, ready for serving.

Once you've finished pulling it apart, it will look something like this:

Slice the rolls and chuck a big pile of the pork on them. Add as much or as little sauce as you want. Top it off with some coleslaw. 

Eat it. Then eat some more.

Pulled pork on a roll. Oh yes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Future

"Am I big enough to know how small I am?" - Babyhead

I'm quite carefree on a day to day basis. I'm not one of life's great worriers. But, sometimes, something will set me off worrying, and I can lose days to the sort of thing which I have no hope of doing anything about. 

Often, the thing I worry about is The Future, which I have capitalised for dramatic effect. Quite a broad topic, and somewhat unavoidable, like the result of a sporting fixture you're hoping to watch the day after it actually happens.

This worrisome aspect of my character has been noticeably more, erm, noticeable since becoming a father. This, I suppose, is because I no longer have the luxury of being able to stop worrying at some point roughly fifty years into the future. I now have to worry for (I hope) at least eighty years. And that's if Cam doesn't do any procreation of his own. 

Part of the trouble with The Future is that there will almost certainly be people in it. People like me, people like you, people like George Osborne, people like Eric Schmidt, people like Wayne Rooney. Countless other people. Millions. Billions. Too many. Too many people milling around on this little rock; eating, drinking, pissing, shitting, sleeping, shagging, consuming, wasting, creating, destroying. 

Did you know, that if every human currently on Earth consumed its resources at the rate at which the average American consumes resources, we would require 3.7 Earths in order to not run out of stuff? Now, I've checked under the fridge (where everything I've lost eventually turns up) and there are no spare planets under there. Fortunately, we are not all Americans.

So, no problem, right?

Well, not according to this article I read yesterday: Humans 

See, it isn't just the consumption being done by existing humans we need to be concerned about. There's around 7 billion of us at the moment. Apparently we'd all physically fit on Zanzibar, although I doubt the quality of life would be up to much. But, as a species, we are DAMN GOOD at growing our population. 

Yep. High fives all round for our procreative prowess. 

As a result of our collective horizontal jogging efforts, we'll soon (within our children's lifetimes) be sharing the planet with 9,999,999,999 other humans. Hold on, is that enough digits? I'm not sure I can even count to ten billion, or if I'd have time to get there before I died. Anyway, yes. TEN BILLION people. 

So, in The Future, I just don't see that there's enough Earth to go around. Enough water. Enough food. Enough fuel. Enough space. Enough of those little paper umbrellas you used to get in cocktails. Enough spokey dokeys. Enough, honestly, of most things.

So I worry. I worry that Cam will grow up in a world where there is increasing competition for the resources we do have. That he will see massive unrest unfold around him as more and more people wake up to the idea that we can't go on as we do now. Most of all I worry that the answer to the problem of too many people does not lie in a change in how we consume, I worry that it lies in how many of us there are doing the consuming. I worry that there needs to be fewer of us, and that somewhere in The Future we will have to confront that. 

I worry that we are not big enough to know how small we are, and that we will wander headlong into a need for drastic action to reduce our number, and we'll be too busy thinking about how important we are to see it coming.

I hope, now I've written this, I can go back to not thinking about it for a while. I am a part of the problem.