Lately I've been going through a ham-obsessed stage. Symptoms include: not being able to get enough Black Forest, prosciutto, and country ham amongst other cured pork preparations. And within minutes of getting my hands on a copy of Deborah Krasner's Good Meat, I immediately decided that this Boston Butt Cooked Like Ham was a must-try recipe.
While this version of homemade ham isn't cured and doesn't come from the hind quarters of the pig, I was confident that the salt and sugar brine combined with slow-roasting would make for a tasty approximation. Another element of this recipe that piqued my curiosity was the sweet vermouth used for basting. I've used white vermouth as a shelf-stable substitute for white wine for a long time, and generally save my bottle of the sweet stuff for Manhattans.
Once the pork had been brined, covered in garlic butter, basted with sweet vermouth, and roasted to a lovely, lacquered shade of brown, I was ready to slice it open and see what the insides had to offer. The cross-section revealed shades ranging from deep pink to "the other white meat" pale pork color with striations of white fat running throughout. The brine rendered the pork pleasantly salty with a crisp and sweet crust. I can't say it was particularly hammy but mostly due to the fact that the pork hadn't been cured. This piece of roasted pork brought to mind porchetta, minus the herbs but equally porky, juicy, and ready to be sliced and eaten hot or perhaps even better, chilled and sliced for sandwiches the next day.
- 2 1/2 pounds pastured pork shoulder (Boston butt)
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 12 whole cloves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet red vermouth
Rinse the meat, blot it dry, and bring it to room temperature. Take a good look at the meat, and if it is not compact and even, tie it into a neat bundle using kitchen twine. Set it aside. Choose a lidded container large enough to hold the pork and the brine inside.
Mix together the kosher salt, brown sugar, cloves, and just enough hot tap water to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour that liquid over the meat in the container, and add cold water to cover. Let the meat sit, refrigerated, all day or overnight. When you are ready to cook, remove the meat from the brine, rinse it well, and blot it dry. Lightly salt and pepper the meat and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up.
Melt the butter over low heat and gently cook the garlic until fragrant, but not colored. Pour this over the meat and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Roast the meat for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300°F and begin basting the meat with the vermouth every 20 minutes or so. The meat should cook for at least 20 minutes per pound, about 1 additional hour, or until it registers an internal temperature of 150°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing it and serving it with the pan juices.