I set to cook on the morning of July 4th with so many meals in mind. So. Many. Meals. While I knew I was serving blue cheese filled all-natural burgers for the holiday barbecue, I had a two-pound piece of pork from the rear of the piggy that I wanted to smoke. It was a holiday and I had the time so the smoking commenced.
First, I prepared the meat. For any other occasion, I would typically marinate the meat 24 hours ahead of time. I’d use a dry and a wet rub to help tenderize the meat. As I decided to make this pork butt at the last minute, there was little time to tenderize so I had to put lots of flavor into both the meat and the smoking liquid.
Now, the smoking liquid goes into a pot in the bottom of your smoker. We have three different smokers. Yes, we’re a tad bit obsessed. Being that it was a holiday and we were also feeling a tad bit lazy, we decided to use the gas-powered smoker so that the temperature was regulated without us having to monitor the fire all morning. Don’t hate us because we have a gas-powered smoker.
Our smoking liquid starts with water and is peppered with goodies. I needed to pack in a lot of flavor in a short period of time, so I layered in multiple items. First, I added some classic flavors like bay leaf, cinnamon, dried thyme branches (from a friend’s organic garden in France, she snuck them on the plane) and juniper berries. Then I turned up the heat with Thai dried chilies and garlic cloves. Lastly, I tossed in a large chunk of ginger for spice just before pouring in a small splash (err, river) of whiskey. You may choose to omit the liquor, but I must ask – why? Seriously, the alcohol burns out and the hint of flavor is amazing.
The meat was equally inundated with flavor. I rubbed these small slabs with olive oil, salt and pepper, and added some fennel seeds, black peppercorns and a little more of that Thai chili, chopped coarsely. Isn’t it pretty?
After a quick rub, we put the pork into the 225 degree smoker and waited. (I didn’t really wait. I got on with the rest of my cooking and didn’t have to think about the pork.) Pork cooks at about 1.5 hours per pound. As this meat was a mere two pounds, we didn’t have to wait long. Around lunch time, we pulled the meat out and admired it’s crusty goodness. But we’re not done yet!
I set the kitchen oven to a low 225 degrees and before wrapping the pork in some aluminum foil, tossed in a few splashes of malt vinegar. Malt vinegar and pork just marry well, especially with ginger and chili. I popped in the wrapped pork into the oven for a short while, less than an hour. When the meat emerged, it still had that crusty goodness, but with a little shine.
I grabbed two forks and proceeded to pull the pork apart. This meat was tender to the bite, but a touch snug to the touch of the fork. Snug meat reminds you to always plan ahead and marinate the meat 24 hours ahead of time. Still, the meat was succulent and shiny. The pink smoke ring was perfect and so mesmerizing that two vegetarians at my table had to sneak a bite.
In case you can’t see that smoke ring or the luscious shine, look a bit closer. I chose to not serve this for our barbecue. This succulent meat adorned some toasted buns as pulled pork sandwiches, and the flavors that lingered long after each bite were rich, tangy, sharp and filling. I am in love with the rear of the pig, and so were my guests.