Food on Fire

Smoked pulled pork and coleslaw

The renowned Mister Brown is the Southern term given to the most delicious heavily smoked bits of real barbecue.

Pulled pork is a tasty way to feed a crew.
Pulled pork is a tasty way to feed a crew. — Timothy Fowler photo

While I grill year-round, my Texas-style pit barbecue (also known as an old-school off-set smoker) doesn’t get up to operating temperature at -20 C, so when the snow flies I put my hot smoker away. By April Fool’s Day, my stock of hot smoked meats is eaten down to near empty and I am desperate to get some smoke on.

Pork butt, a boneless pork shoulder, was first out of the smoker this year. I rubbed the shoulder with the dry rub below, wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours. The salt and spices had plenty of opportunity to absorb and flavour the pork. The recipe for the rub and coleslaw, along with the method used, is found below.

We were having nearly 30 people for a simple dinner and birthday celebration, and I wanted something to feed this crew that wouldn’t break the bank nor take a full day of preparation in the kitchen. I landed on pulled pork and coleslaw on Italian-style bread buns. If you have a smoker as part of your camping gear, this is a great solution for big family dinners, but you can also freeze vacuum bags of sauced pulled pork to thaw and heat in cast iron on the fire.

The pork took a full six hours at 225 F (107 C) in the smoker. I made the sauce and simmered it on the stove the day of the event. I made the coleslaw the day before; it seems to do well with an overnight in the fridge for the flavours to meld.

Constant lip-smacking, finger-licking, mmm-mm-ming indicated that it worked.

Note: if you don’t have a smoker or don’t want to bother using the smoker, use the slow cooker. Start the meat on high for the first hour, then turn to low until the meat’s internal temperature is 200 F (93 C). Then you are ready to pull.

Tools and equipment

  • Smoker
  • Tongs
  • Meat fork
  • Instant-read thermometer (I really like the Thermapen brand)
  • Freshly sharpened knives
  • Cutting board
  • Non-reactive baking pan to let pork rest
  • Disposable food service-style gloves for pulling pork
  • Mandoline (the food slicer kind, not the strumming kind) or food processor

The Rub

 The following is for seven to eight pounds (3.5 kg) of pork butt:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) smoked paprika (I prefer hot smoked Spanish)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of Ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) coarse black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoked salt (Alder if you can get it)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of Demerara sugar

Mix all of these ingredients and rub well into the pork shoulder, wrap tightly in plastic film and refrigerate overnight.

The Sauce

  • 1½ cups (375 ml) ketchup
  • ½ cup (125 ml) orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) apple juice
  • 1 cup (250 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) dark brown sugar (prefer Demerara)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml)  tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) prepared hot mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 ml) Sriracha hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) coarse black pepper

Mix all of these ingredients and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Simmer for up to an hour.

The renowned Mister Brown is the brownest, tastiest bits of smoked pork.
The renowned Mister Brown is the brownest, tastiest bits of smoked pork. — Timothy Fowler photo

Method for Smoked Pork

  • When you buy the pork, ask your butcher to prep it for the smoker. The butcher will remove the blade bone and trim it for you. Otherwise select a trimmed boned butt of about 7.5 pounds (3.5 kg).
  • As per the note above, mix the dry rub the day before smoking, rub the spice deep into the meat, wrap with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove the pork from the refrigerator while you set up the smoker to operate at 225 F (107 C).
  • Place the pork on the smoker, and monitor hourly. When the temperature reads 195 to 205 F (90 to 96 C), the meat is done.
  • Remove the pork from the smoker, cover with foil and let rest 30 minutes.
  • Place the pork in a large bowl, put on the gloves and carefully separate the fat and inedible bits of sinew or connective tissue.
  • At this point you may chop the meat with a knife into chunks if you like. I prefer the longer strands of smoked pork that has only been “pulled.”
  • Add sauce to the pork a bit at a time and toss the meat. Add as much sauce as required to get the texture you desire.
  • Heat the pulled pork to 180 F (82 C) and serve on buns with coleslaw on the side.

The Coleslaw

  • 6 cups (1.6 litres) sliced cabbage
  • 1 whole English cucumber
  • 2 cups (500 ml) shredded carrots
  • 1 cup (250 ml) thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup (250 ml) chopped green onion
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sliced red pepper
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sliced green pepper

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup (85 ml) white balsamic vinegar (see if you can find prickly pear balsamic—it is lovely)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) orange-flavoured olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon (3 ml) coarse black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) coarse salt
  • ⅓ cup (85 ml) white sugar

Method for Coleslaw

  • Mix the liquid and spice ingredients well and let stand while you cut the vegetables.
  • Shred, cut and slice the vegetables.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the slaw and toss well to coat everything.
  • Refrigerate overnight to encourage the flavours to develop.

Note: I cut my cucumber and coleslaw fine with a freshly sharpened French knife. And I use a special fine mandoline blade that makes perfect fine carrot julienne. I really like the crunch these cuts make to the end product, but you can put the works in the food processor with a coarse shred plate too. It sounds kind of crazy but these various textures improve the overall impact of this tangy coleslaw.

Crunchy coleslaw offsets the creamy fat of pulled pork.
Crunchy coleslaw offsets the creamy fat of pulled pork. — Timothy Fowler photo

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