Winter calls for comfort food. The cold weather and snow on the ground make cocooning in a warm house seem like a terribly good idea, and a warm house full of delicious smells makes the good idea even better. Comfort food has as many definitions and interpretations as there are comfort food eaters, but generally, it’s a dish that is savoury, heavy, filling, and warming. Usually, it’s a dish that evokes nostalgia for dinners past, and usually it’s a dish that is easy to prepare and cooked slowly, filling the house with mouth-watering aromas as it cooks. While many dishes fill that bill for me, a pot roast is probably first on the list, with rich stews, home-made pork and beans, and roast chicken high on the charts. In a column back in February 2009, I wrote about another great comfort food that has become a special favorite: the bean, pork, and duck dish from the south of France, cassoulet.
But another relatively recent discovery certainly fills the comfort food bill in every way: pulled pork. There are many versions of this delicious concoction, most coming from the Southern US, where pork shoulder is cooked using a smoker until it falls off the bone. Variations show up in Mexican cooking, and even the Italian dish, porcetta is similar.
My friend Albert Cipryk introduced me to pulled pork a few years ago. He described it as a way to empty the fridge of old, partly used jars of condiments and sauces which were all thrown together into a slow cooker along with a large pork shoulder roast and left to cook until the meat falls apart. Of course, each version of the dish was different, depending on what he found in his fridge, but a favorite discovery was the flavour added to the resulting dish when he added a partly used jar of molé, a chocolate based sauce used in Mexican cooking.
I’m not as daring as Albert and I tend to plan my pulled pork a little more carefully, relying on more traditional ingredients for the liquid base of the dish. Once the meat has been slow-cooked until it falls apart, the pork is “pulled” by using two forks to shred it into a savoury mush. This gooey mess is served over fresh buns, much like a sloppy joe, and eaten with the use of lots of napkins. There is no standard recipe, and just about any favorite BBQ sauce can be used. My favorite is the Maple Ancho Sauce from White Meadow Farms, which imparts a sweet, smoky flavour to the pulled pork. But, as Albert proved, just about any combination can make a delicious sauce for the meat.
4 lb. pork shoulder or butt roast
2 onions chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 ½ Cups of BBQ sauce (White Meadows Maple Ancho)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
½ Cup of cider vinegar
Brown sugar to taste
Put everything into a slow cooker and cook on low for around 10 hours, or until the pork falls apart easily when pulled with a fork. Shred the meat into the sauce and stir until it is a consistent mess. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve over fresh hamburger buns. Cole slaw makes a good side dish.