28 October 2012
Slow Cooker Braised Pulled Pork
Oh my goodness, but this Pulled Pork interest is turning up some cracking recipes!
This one came about because we just couldn't resist a piece of pork shoulder that had been marked down in Asda. Needless to say, we put it straight into the freezer and then worked out what to do with it.
There was some interest in keeping it for Christmas, but when we thought about Christmas, there didn't seem to be a space for it in our plans. Then, when son & heir's birthday hove into view and we needed to devote many pennies to that cause, we began to wonder what we had in the freezer that could be press-ganged into use. The obvious thing to do with the pork was to just roast it and have it for Sunday lunch.
However, because the BBQ pulled pork that I'd made was so good, I was interested in carrying it a little bit sideways and maybe not involving so many flavours, but letting the pork speak for itself.
It was a big old piece - around 2kg - and so it would be perfect for this, as we could dress the leftovers any way we wanted with additional flavours and so transform the piece of pork into several dishes.
So it was decided. I'd put the pork into the slow cooker with the normal collection of stock vegetables and we'd have a pulled pork roast dinner, then decide what to do with the rest another day.
Oh yes. That worked - it worked beautifully.
I put the pork into the slow cooker at around 9.30 a.m. - accompanied by the usual suspects of carrots, celery, garlic, onion, parsley etc. I kept the cooker on high all day, as it really was a very chunky piece of pork and I did want to pull it apart.
When it came time to remove the pork, my goodness but it was just falling apart. Because I'd left the thick fat along the top, this had been slowly rendering down all day and trickling through the meat, keeping it succulent and juicy.
Now normally, I'd run the stock through a sieve and throw away the stock veggies - which always hurt, as they look so soft and unctuous after cooking with the meat. It really is a wonder I hadn't thought of doing this myself - but I recently saw a lady on t.v. use a hand held blender to whizz the stock veggies into the stock for an incredibly tasty gravy. This fits so well with my "don't waste a thing!" ethos that I had resolved to do the same the first chance I got.
So I picked out the woody stems of the herbs, plus the garlic. I'm not that keen on heavily garlicked gravies and sauces - but feel free to leave them there if you try this and are very keen on garlic! The stock veggies didn't argue and disappeared into a lovely russet coloured, enriched stock - which tasted absolutely divine.
I added a little Essential Cuisine Veal stock powder (just a small teaspoonful) to help bring out the meatiness, plus a little salt and pepper and it was ready for thickening into a gorgeous gravy.
I've frozen another two helpings of the stock, one to go with the other half of the pork - which I've also frozen - and another which may very well become soup! Liquid gold!
The pork, with some gravy and a dot of apple sauce, was utterly gorgeous. No other word for it. Soft, tender, unctuous, well flavoured, sweet, savoury, tiny sour notes from the apples - just divine.
For me, this pork beat the BBQ version into a cocked hat. Given the choice, I'd have this one any day - and BBQ it up, if I wanted it to go that way!
So the next time you have a piece of pork shoulder that you don't know what to do with, either break out the slow cooker, or put it in the bottom of the oven on low for some 8 hours or so. You won't regret it!
SLOW COOKER BRAISED PULLED PORK (serves 6-7)
2kg piece of pork shoulder, fat and skin on
1 large carrot, sliced thickly
2 large celery sticks, chopped into large pieces
2 garlic cloves, still in their jackets but bashed with the back of a knife
1 onion, peeled and cut into 4 quarters
1 bunch parsley (around 10g)
1 bunch tarragon (around 10g)
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
1 Knorr herb infusion stock pot
sea salt & black pepper
1 tsp veal stock powder (optional)
1. Fairly early in the morning, place the carrot pieces into the bottom of the slow cooker to form a trivet.
2. Place the pork - skin side up - on the carrots.
3. Throw the remaining ingredients except the stock pots, into the slow cooker with gay abandon.
4. Make up the two stock pots (together in the same jug) with 800g hot water and decant into the slow cooker.
5. Sprinkle the top of the pork with a tiny pinch of sea salt and a whole heap of black pepper.
6. Put the lid on, turn it on to High and forget about it for the next 7 hours.
7. Remove the lid and place the pork onto a warmed plate. Cover with tin foil and leave to rest while you deal with the stock.
8. Remove the garlic (unless you're particularly keen on garlicky gravy!) and the woody stems of the herbs and discard.
9. Blitz with a hand-held blender until all the vegetables have disappeared.
10. Decant as much of the stock as you anticipate you'll need for gravy into a saucepan. the remainder can be cooled and frozen for use another day.
11. To thicken the gravy, use approximately 1 tablespoonful of cornflour per third of the quantity of the stock. So, if you're using all the stock, you'll need around 3 tablespoonfuls. I used a third of the stock, so I used just the one tablespoonful. Slake the cornflour with a little water, until you have a runny paste.
12. Pour half the cornflour mixture into the gravy and begin to heat it through to a simmer, whisking all the time to prevent the gravy forming lumps. Once it has thickened, you will be able to know how much of the remainder of the cornflour you will need to obtain your preferred thickness.
13. Once the gravy is done, uncover the pork and carefully remove the skin and thick fat. (You can hang this fat from the nearest tree for the birdies, once it has cooled. It's also good entertainment for the local cats and dogs - who will sit beneath it trying to exercise telekinesis in order to get at it). Begin to pull the meat apart into shreds. This is a perfect opportunity to remove any lumpy bits of fat, which are quite unpleasant to discover on your fork.
14. You can serve this pork in any way you so desire. I served mine as part of a roast dinner.