In the Carolinas, “real” barbecue is languidly cooked in a smoker with hickory wood, but more people likely make it this way, in the oven. It takes forever, but what a payoff: a mountain of meltingly tender meat, perfect for a big family gathering or for when you want leftovers for other meals down the road.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 7 1⁄2 lb./3.5 kg)
2 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian or Spanish
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) cider vinegar
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) lightly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) ketchup
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1⁄3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) canola oil
1 small head green cabbage, shredded
10 soft sandwich buns, split
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Cut the rind off the pork shoulder, leaving a thin layer of fat. Using a sharp knife, score the fat in a crosshatch pattern, creating 1-inch (2.5-cm) diamonds. Mix together the paprika, thyme, oregano, 2 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper and the cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pork and rub it in. Place the pork in a large Dutch oven and add 1⁄2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the vinegar, the onion and two-thirds of the garlic. Cover and bake, turning the pork every hour or so, until it is fork-tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part away from the bone registers at least 190°F (88°C), 5 to 6 hours.
Meanwhile, to make the barbecue sauce, in a bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) vinegar, the remaining garlic, the sugar, ketchup and red pepper flakes. The sauce will be thin. Measure out 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) sauce, then transfer the remaining sauce to a covered container and set aside at room temperature. To make the coleslaw, in a bowl, whisk together the 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) barbecue sauce and the oil. Add the cabbage and mix to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the cabbage to soften and the flavors to mingle.
When the pork is ready, transfer it to a carving board and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let stand for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the cooking liquid, then boil the liquid over high heat until reduced to about 3⁄4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml). Using 2 forks, pull the pork shoulder into shreds. (Once the pork has been pulled apart into large chunks, it may be easier to use a knife to help shred the meat.) Transfer to a serving bowl and moisten with the reduced cooking liquid. To serve, heap the pulled pork and a spoonful of the slaw onto the bottom half of each bun and cover with the bun top. Serve immediately, passing the sauce on the side. Serves 10.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty, by Rick Rodgers