Mr. Maricucu and I are very fond of barbecue, that is Memphis and Texas style 'cue. Unfortunately for us we live in North Carolina, the capital of vinegar based barbecue. It's quite a surprise to order a barbecue sandwich and be served a bun full of chopped pork butt with a side of vinegar. Definitely not what he was used to but being the eternal optimist, he continues to look for a good barbecue around these parts. The day we found Danny's a few years ago, was a grand day for him but alas Danny's is a bit far to be a regular stop.
Then this little gem from My Husband Cooks showed up in my reader one day. Hmm, succulent pulled pork in a rub, we could add a good tomato based barbecue sauce and my favorite, cole slaw on top. I think it took me all of two seconds to add it to my menu that week in February. I was intrigued by the long and slow cooking. Upon further research it seems 195-200 degrees is the magic point when the connective tissue in the pork melts away leaving tender, moist meat. However, it takes time and the pork reaches a plateau in the final hour or so of cooking where the temperature seems to be at a standstill. Just be patient, keep cooking it until it reaches 195 degrees and you'll be rewarded.
So how was the pulled pork that day in February? Divine. Seriously, the kids ate their weight in pulled pork and Mr. Maricucu abandoned the bun to eat his precious barbecue adorned with just a little bit of sauce. He was sold on making this at home. Since we'd purchased the pork butt at BJ's we had to buy a double pack which meant I vacuum sealed the second piece of meat for tinkering later on. I really enjoyed the rub from the original recipe but I wanted to see if I could find something with a little more memphis character and balanced/slight sweetness. I found my memphis rub in The Joy of Cooking's Southern Barbecue Dry Rub. With a good balance of savory/sweet but a little interest with some nontraditional spices and a twist I threw in myself. Mr. Maricucu is now in barbecue heaven.
Pulled Pork with Southern Barbecue Dry Rub
adapted from The Joy of Cooking and My Husband Cooks
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper - this recipe makes two cups of rub so this may seem like a lot of heat but it's not. However, if your household is sensitive to heat you can reduce this amount.
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground - the original recipe uses mace but I don't keep that in my kitchen. Nutmeg and mace both come from the same tree, mace growing in a lacy pattern around the actual nutmeg seed.
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns - you can crack these in a plastic bag with a rolling pin but I just set my pepper mill to the roughest setting and ground away.
2 teaspoons ground allspice - this was my own twist. My mom has always told me that an aunt of mine uses allspice to season meats along with black pepper as a way to intensify the meat flavor. In fact, she's been using allspice in her roast pork recipe for years now and no one has been able to pinpoint the flavor.
2 tablespoons granulated garlic - another addition of mine. I figured a little garlic would only make this taste even better.
It's pretty straightforward, just dump the ingredients in a bowl and mix up the rub. Oh and whatever you do, never google "butt rub" without including the words barbecue or recipe. Shudder.
Now buy yourself a 7ish pound pork shoulder, also known as boston butt. Don't ask me why. It has a small bone but remember you want the boston butt, not the picnic roast. A pork shoulder is cut into two parts, the butt is the topmost wide part of the shoulder, and the picnic roast is the lower part closest to the leg.
While this recipe is easy, you'll definitely have to build in some time. Rub the rub (ha!) all over the pork butt, quite liberally. You'll use about 2/3 to 3/4 of the rub. Place the meat in a pan with a lip to catch the juices and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit in the fridge overnight but preferably 24 hours.
Next up - cooking the butt.