Slow Cooked: The Art of Crockpottery

I got my first CrockPot for Christmas this year. Any slow cooking prior to yesterday, I've done in my trusty (and still favorite) LeCruset French oven. I have been interested in playing around with "crockpottery", however, and did find the perfect initiation for the inaugural use of this small kitchen electric: pulled pork.

I know I keep mentioning that huge amount of frozen beef and pork in my basement, and I think the reasoning is two-fold. First, that I am still amazed that it is actually there and I alone have to decide what to do with it all. Second, is that my nicely wrapped cuts are fairly vague when it comes to what they are. I took out an about 2 lb. "pork roast", and left it to thaw under refrigeration for several days. When I unwrapped it yesterday morning (not the optimum time for looking at raw meat in my book... fortunately, I at least had my coffee in before beginning), I confess that I have no earthly idea what kind of cut I was looking at. It had a small amount of fat, mostly on the edges, and a good size bone running through it. You can view it on the left of the below photo.

From what I know of slow cooking meat, the first step is always to brown it first on all sides. I had quite an amount of other food to cook yesterday, so I neglected this intentionally. I did, however, slather the entire roast in the remaining spice rub from the tofu last weekend. After a good 8 hours on low, I could have sworn that I did sear it, since it had such a nice spice crust.

The recipe for the sauce was ridiculously easy, just mix up everything in the slow cooker pottery, and lay the meat on top. I got this recipe from my Brother and Sister-in-Law, which was originally from Good Housekeeping. I made it my own by adding some hoisin sauce and garlic cloves to the mix, and of course by using that spice rub. I used half of all the ingredients for my two pound roast, but use the full amounts for the suggested 4 lb.

Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork

  • 1 medium onion, frenched. (I love this method of slicing onions, and use it frequently after learning about it from Alton Brown. This post from Simply Recipes explains it well, and also has a nice looking caramelized onion quiche for you to practice on!)
  • 1/2 c. ketchup
  • 1/3 c. cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. hoisin sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 2 T. sweet paprika
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T. yellow mustard
  • 2 to 4 peeled garlic cloves, each cut into 4 pieces
  • 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder blade roast, cut into 4 pieces (Obviously, I used a two pound roast with a bone, and it was just fine... It also fit perfectly into my oval CrockPot, so I didn't need to cut it!)
  • 1 1/2 t. each salt and pepper - which you may omit if using the spice rub like I did...

This recipe was written for a 4 1/2 - 6 quart slow cooker, and should yield at least 8 cups of pulled pork. Stir everything in the slow-cooker pot until combined, add pork and turn to coat.

Cook on low setting for 8-10 hours. At the 8 hour mark, I turned it off, and let the meat cool to reasonable handling temperature. I shredded the now amazingly tender meat with two forks, judiciously leaving out conspicuous bits of fat, and added it back to the pot. I mashed up any visible garlic pieces, too. You could boil down the juices a bit to reduce if it looks like it will be too watery, but I found that it was the perfect amount for the pork I used. Also, since I knew I wouldn't be eating it for a day, I figured it would marinate and absorb a bit as it sat.

I'm lucky that if for some reason I don't feel like making bread or rolls, we have a great Italian bakery moments from my house. Canfora Bakery has the best "Dutchie Crust" rolls, that even if I tried I doubt I'd be able to mimic. I also love the camaraderie that exists when I stop in with the rest of the after-church-traffic to take a ticket and wait in line... They always have a pot of coffee on, and samples of coffee cake or other baked goods for those who are waiting patiently without a 3 year old.

Back in my airport-working days, I'd see grocery bags of hard rolls being consumed with butter and cups of coffee on breaks. Since we had a number of ex-factory workers on our early A.M. shifts, I was schooled that this was a typical breakfast for the over 50 set. If you want the true Milwaukee experience of Coffee and Hard Rolls, these are the ones to go and seek out.

When I tasted my pork today at lunch, I couldn't help thinking something was missing. A quick addition of some of my candied jalapenos solved that. I even drizzled some of the vinegary, sweet-hot canning liquid on there as well. Perfection achieved.