Pork. Such an innocent, unassuming chunk of meat. Then, I had to go and turn it into delicious, smoky, tangy, cumin flavored goodness.
...Did I mention I also used beer? Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin that is.
What was that? You want the recipe? Why of COURSE I'll give you the recipe. It all started as chance really. I happened to pick up some very cheap pork carnitas meat (less than $1 U.S. per pound) I wanted to grill it, but I wanted it tender too. I couldn't have both. Or could I? I theorized that I could use the grill to develop the smoky flavor, then the oven to roast it nice and slow. It totally worked.
Use pork with fat. Do NOT trim the pork. Carnitas worked beautifully.
I started by rubbing the pork with balsamic vinegar and then dousing it with a generous amount of cumin and some salt. For this you will need charcoal and a LOT of hickory chips. (commonly available in stores where charcoal is sold) Soak about seven to ten handfuls of hickory chips in water. You want a lot of smoke going on. Let them soak for at least an hour. Start up the grill, get the charcoal hot, and make sure the charcoal is on one side of the grill. Drain the hickory chips. Sprinkle the hickory chips on top of the hot charcoal and put the pork on the rack as far away from the charcoal as you can get. Remember the point of this part is not to cook the pork but give it a really smoky flavor. Close the grill and let the pork sit until the grill stops smoking.
Remove the pork from the grill. In a roasting pan, put a thin layer of some citrus beer. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, Elysian's blood orange, Lost Coast tangerine, Coronado Orange Avenue. If you can't find a citrus ale, then a really good IPA with citra hops would do. Try to stay away from the piney IPA's though. No beer? No worries, you can use water with some juice.
Place the pork directly into the liquid. Set your oven to 250F and cover the roasting pan. Let it sit in the oven, checking every hour, until the meat is tender and coming apart easily. If the meat had a decent amount of fat, there should be plenty of drippings at the bottom of the pan.
Now comes the fussy part. Tear apart the meat into a bowl and set it aside. Pour the drippings into a saucepan. You are going to add about 3 heavy squeezes of ketchup, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a few dashes of balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Process a half an onion until it is pureed and put that in the saucepan. Stir gently and allow to simmer, bubbling gently.
Slice the other half an onion plus two more. Unless they are big onions, in which case use only one more. Brown the onions in a large pot carefully with some oil or butter. Do not burn them. When they are browned, add the shredded meat and mix thoroughly.
Taste the sauce. If it tastes bland, add more ketchup, if it feels thin, add a few tomatoes that are processed in a food processor until finely chopped. If you want more sauce you can add a bit of beef broth. This is a personal taste process. It should taste smoky and slightly fatty. You should be able to smell a hint of vanilla. It will not be like commercial BBQ sauce. It will not be sweet or extremely thick. It should remind you of the bbq when it was smoking the pork. You can add more cumin if you love the taste of cumin, or some seasoned salt. When you think the sauce tastes as it should, pour it in with the meat and put a lid on the pot. It will not take long for it to heat up. When it is hot, it is ready to serve. Put it on sandwiches, serve with brown rice, asparagus, or a salad with sharp cheese.
I recommend serving this with an IPA, a cider, or a Belgian lager.
Photos by Che Dean