I maintain a mostly vegetarian diet for no other reason than that is what I primarily crave, fruits and vegetables. And bread. Okay let’s be honest, I could live on bread and pasta alone. I could never truly go vegetarian, though, because the one thing I crave almost as often as I crave pasta is pulled pork. Clearly my southern roots have taken hold if what I crave often is barbecue! Dad is from North Carolina, Mom is from Oklahoma. Every time I visit my dad in South Carolina I consume copious amounts of sweet tea, fried foods, and barbecue. I am not complaining.
Now for the tricky part: Defining barbecue. Each region of the south and midwest has their own style of preparing and cooking barbecue. Some places slather and cook the meat in sauce. Others apply a dry rub for cooking and offer sauce on the side, but it is not an integral part of the barbecue experience. Some places are known for their beef brisket, others for the use of the entire pig. Pulled pork is a big part of Carolina Barbecue, and topping it with cole slaw is even more Carolinian. I have only become acquainted with southern barbecue in the last few years so I still have much to learn. My previous descriptions are simplified, to say the least. By the end of this post I will likely have offended some barbecue connoisseurs and possibly even lost a percentage of my audience. I would like to take this moment to apologize for what I am about to do to this most sacred cuisine.
Mind you, this is not sarcasm. Not in the least. Barbecue, especially in the southern and midwestern United States is serious business, and I am fully on board with this level of love for any type of food. I live in Southern California, one of the food meccas of the world, and I have yet to taste a pulled pork sandwich that comes close to those I have consumed in North Carolina (and remember, I have consumed copious amounts). I sample pulled pork every chance I get. If it’s on the menu, it will soon be on my plate. My pulled pork experiences in California often come up lacking, so I set out to make my own. I live in an apartment with a balcony that is currently crowded by plants and so I do not have room for a smoker. I don’t even know if my lease agreement would allow me to have one. I have looked at a few small styles, and will surely buy one soon. Until then, I have take to preparing my pulled pork in the slow cooker. Yes, you read that right, but please don’t stop reading!
The slow cooker is a life saver to some, and a helpful tool to most. I have a few dishes I make in my slow cooker and this one application for which I am grateful I have this “cheater” in my home. If I can’t get that signature smokey flavor of pig slowly cooked over wood chips, then I at least want the tender meat that practically disintegrates upon meeting the tongue. That can be achieved quite nicely in a slow cooker. I am researching ways to get that smokey flavor without resorting to that “liquid smoke” in a bottle stuff. Whew. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and still have your attention, shall we continue?
Again, please stay with me. I have *gasp* combined my favorite flavors to create my own barbecue sauce that compliments the natural flavors of the pork while providing a thick topping for those that so desire. As far as I can tell, the following recipe does not fit into any specific style of barbecue. I am not ashamed! I have taken my Carolina roots of pulled pork and meshed with a semi-Kansas City-style sauce. I add cider vinegar to my sauce to maintain that touch of Carolina! Also, I cook the pork in the sauce, instead of a dry rub, in the style of, well, nowhere (that I am aware). Ultimately, my pulled pork recipe is heavily influenced by the methods and flavors of the Carolinas, with some tweaks thrown in by other regions.
If you are a barbecue master or a barbecue lover from the south or anywhere, I would love to know your thoughts on barbecue. Which is the best? Am I committing the worst atrocity known to food? Do you top your pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw? I never liked coleslaw one bit, until I had it on top of a pulled pork sandwich at a Charlotte, North Carolina street fair in 2008. I’m still not a huge fan of coleslaw, but it will always have a place atop my beloved pulled pork sandwich.