Huh, growing up in Minneapolis I never realized this had midwest origins, I just assumed it was something magical which the whole world enjoyed. Haven't had any in a while, now I think I must.
Last time I was at my cabin I made something along the same lines, it turned out so well I've wanted to attempt it again in a more sophisticated manner, and you've given me some nice ideas.
I was limited by my circumstances at the time (gas station grocery shopping in northern Minnesota isn't the best) I actually didn't even have graham crackers and had to use a pre-made graham cracker pie crust. I broke apart the crust, creamed in some butter and salt, spread it on tinfoil, topped with marshmallows and chunks of chocolate, rolled it up in the tinfoil, and baked at 400* for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet. The bits of crust which toasted against the cookie sheet came out so aromatic and wonderfully crunchy I've been thinking about how to maximize the toasty crust factor without adversely effecting the marshmallows. I had been thinking of it as a tart or pie, but treating it like a cake and separating the preparation of each layer should do the trick.
This is gonna be a long post, deal with it.
Here is what I ended up doing, I'll write it up recipe-style in case anyone wants to use it as a starting point, but there are definitely some things I would change if I were to do it again, so don't copy me verbatim.
4-5 lb pork shoulder (or butt)
2 apples, thinly sliced
For the dry rub:
8 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp tony's creole seasoning (an old-bay style spiced salt, a family favorite on everything from pizza rolls, to pork chops, to popcorn)
for the BBQ sauce:
(approximate, not sure exactly what I ended up putting in)
1 1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used blackstrap, I'm sure regular would work)
2 tbs liquid smoke (hickory)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
+ reduced rendered pork fat & runoff
(begin heating your water bath to 150-155*F, I did 155 and found it a bit too well done, but still great)
1) trim the pork shoulder of as much surface fat as you can, this allows the dry rub to penetrate into the meat easier, and makes for a 'cleaner' looking end result. Do not throw away the fat trimmings!
2) divide the pork into 2-3 inch thick sections, too thick and the heat won't penetrate well, nor will the dry rub.
3) combine all dry rub ingredients, mix evenly with a fork or whisk, make sure you don't leave clumps at the bottom of the bowl
4) thoroughly coat all the chunks of pork and place them in zip-lock or vacuum bags. (most people say to only put one item in each bag, I usually put 2-3 chunks in a 1 gallon bag and keep them separated from one another)
5)* if you have any left over dry rub, toss the fat trimmings in it, if not, just evenly distribute the fat trimmings into the bags
6)** add sliced apples to the bags
7) seal bags and remove air using your preferred method (I use zip-locks, many people use the water immersion technique, I find I get a better seal if I just put my mouth up to the opening and use my body's built in vacuum pump)
8) place bags in the water bath for 8-12 hours.
/* sleep (I put my bags in the water at ~5AM, luckily I'm a college student with bad sleeping habits) */
9) wake up, kill time for a few hours
10) remove bags from water bath, empty contents into a large bowl. Transfer the meat to a platter lined with paper towel, dry thoroughly. Strain what remains in the bowl with a colander, toss the fat and apples***, keep the fluids.
(these next few steps are a bit of a balancing act, I had a pair of tongs in one hand, and a wooden ladle in the other, consider recruiting a kitchen assistant/relative to help you with the labor intensive bits so you can keep an eye on all the important stuff)
11) in a medium saucepan, begin simmering/boiling the juices. You want to reduces this by at least half before adding the other ingredients.
12) using either a ripping hot cast iron skillet, or a torch, sear the pork. I used a skilled with a bit of canola oil and plenty of butter, but I think a torch would be better here, as even at max heat I only got a mediocre sear on the pork.
13) combine BBQ sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Once the juices in the saucepan have reduced enough, reduce heat to low for a minute and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. (you should lower the tempt first because the thick layer of fat in the pan can cause the bottom layer to super-heat, and I don't want to add the emergency room to this recipe).
After you've mixed everything in, crank the heat back up, this can take a while to reduce and thicken up.
14) pull the pork
15) get annoyed that the BBQ sauce hasn't thickened up enough yet, wait 10 minutes, give up and tell everyone dinner is served.
For serving, I used a bag of Rhodes frozen dough dinner rolls, you get 36 balls of frozen dough for $4, they take about 5 hours to thaw and rise, but then it's 15-20 minutes in the oven and you have some great serving buns.
*: this is my favorite contribution to the recipe. Normally you have to give up the juiciness from this trimmed fat in exchange for the flavor of the dry rub, not with sous vide. By placing the trimmings in the bags you get access to all the fat and juice of the trimmings without loosing out on flavor from the rub
**: I think the apples worked from a technical perspective, they gave up some flavor by osmosis thanks to all the fat surrounding them. They were not at all necessary, and if you like the idea I suggest using a different apple than I used, the Honeycrisps taste too much like honey, they don't impart that apple-pie like apple flavor I was looking for.
What I liked:
- The BBQ sauce was AWESOME. I wish I could have reduced it all the way down to a jelly-like state, but it's probably for the best that I ended up having to serve it early, the taste was already really intense.
- The pork came out with a great flavor, dry rubbing a divided roast gives you a lot more surface area, and much more penetration.
What I didn't:
- The meat came out a bit too well-done, it was actually a little troublesome to pull, luckily I had relatives to recruit for the job
- The timing; It worked out for me because I was out with friends until 4AM, but it's a problematic recipe to try and serve for dinner.
Between the two major gripes I had with the recipe, I think I would drop the temperature down to 140-145 and cook for 14-16 hours, that way normal people can put it in when they go to bed and it should be a bit softer at the end.
I would drop the apples from the recipe, that was just something I wanted to play around with.
Thanks everyone for your contributions to the recipe, it definitely came out better thanks to all of you than it would have with only me steering things. I'm gonna stop making this post longer now.
Just finishing up dinner now, the pork came out great. I'll do a write-up of my recipe later for others to use as a reference
O.K. according to the food lab's article onapple pie both pre-cooking and adding acid would make the apple release LESS flavor, and cooking apples sous vide at 155 is a suggested method for sealing in flavor, I will need to reconsider my use of apples here. If I pre-cook them hot enough I can release the juices and flavor I want, but then I'm adding a liquid to the bag. Perhaps I'm over thinking it, I may just put the apples in and see what happens, the dry rub should pick up at least a little apple flavor just by osmosis.
@Double_J: Thanks for the pointer about the apples, I'll have to do some research to see if I can find an exact temp at which apples break down. I know with something like carrots or broccoli you need to use higher temps, but I routinely get great flavor out of shallots and garlic at 130*F, and an apple seems closer to a shallot than to a carrot in terms of consistency. That's hardly a scientific assessment, so I think I'll do some reading. Worst case scenario I end up with no apple flavor in the meat, and a lot in the reduction.
I wonder if I couldn't get some more 'action' out of the apples by pre-cooking them or soaking them briefly in vinegar to kick-start the process of breaking them down.
I agree that straight sous vide pulled pork would probably be rather uninteresting in texture, that's why I'll be finishing the shoulder sections in a skillet or with a torch to get some contrast.
If anyone has a recommendation for bun's I'd love to hear it. I'll be looking around some local bakery's to see if they have something reasonably affordable. I've had some great buns from frozen store-bought dough before at family gatherings, but I can't recall what the brand was, and I haven't seen a lot of options in the grocery stores nearby.
Thanks for the input everyone, I appreciate it.
@jarmac, I think you should be O.K. with the cooler at 180, but personally I would cook it completely using the water bath on saturday, rapidly cool it in an ice bath and store it until sunday morning, then re-heat in the smoker.
@truffle shuffle: thanks a lot, I'm so used to cooking steaks I didn't even stop to think if the pulled pork would be better off at medium or well done. I think I will switch to 150-155 for 8-12 hours as you suggested.
Between truffle shuffle's suggestion and a handful of recipes I've been looking at, I've decided to skip the brine and use a dry rub in the bag. I don't have a lot of experience cooking BBQ style, and I don't think I've ever prepared a dry rub before, so if anyone has some good articles or recipes to share I'd appreciate it. At the moment I plan on using smoked paprika (trying to make up for not using the smoker), brown sugar, salt & pepper, and some apple slices (not really part of the rub, but they will go in the bag).
Seriously though, I've had two hangovers in my life, one when I drank for the first time (18 year olds don't know how to balance a rum and coke!) and one that I think may have been food poisoning.
It's not that I drink infrequently, I'm a college student and I drink harder than most of my friends, but I have some healthy habits I believe keep me regret free:
1) Everyone says it, Hydration. Don't just drink water while you are drinking alcohol, stay well hydrated all the time. If your body is in good shape before the alcohol hits your system it will do a much better job of processing the toxins for the rest of the night. The idea is to anticipate what is coming, and be prepared for it, instead of playing catch up.
2) Nourish thy self! 4 shots and a pint deep is a bad time to decide you should be healthy and order a salad, you need carbs, fat, SALT, and protein. If you're getting a meal, I always go for a burger, if you're picking out snacks, ritz crackers or something salty and carb-filled.
3) Don't drink your way to sleep, and don't sleep the day away. When I get back from a night of drinking, I try to stay up another hour to let things begin to clear up before I go to sleep. Secondly, don't sleep 6 hours later than you are used to and expect the day to be normal; set an alarm if you must, but a lot of people seem to get 'hangovers' that are actually just dehydration and stiffness from sleeping for 12 hours.
Best for the money? Jacks pepperoni, ideally with some BBQ sauce or Tony's Creole seasoning on it.
In terms of quality, I've found nothing better than the 3 meat pizza from green mill's line of frozen thin-crusts. I think they may have stopped making that specific one, as I've had some trouble finding it lately, but their whole line of thin crust pizza's is truly great.
Thanks for the article, as a budding foodie and full time college student I'm always looking for ideas for fine-er dining that don't break the bank. And I live less than 2 miles from your shop on france & 44 so I'll be able to match this as closely as I'd like while I start exploring the world of cheese.
P.S. It's really nice to have a writer from the area, I'd love to see some opinions on local restaurants and markets!
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