Fifteen Pounds of Pork Shoulder

I watched an old episode of America's Test Kitchen a few weeks back, and was intrigued with their solution to smoking pork indoors. They used LIQUID smoke! I decided I'd give it a try if the economics worked out. See, I can get ACTUAL smoked pork here in Crozet for $10/pound. So if it would cost me $8/pound to do it myself, I wouldn't bother. I figured if I could do it for $5/lb it would be worth a try, and I'd see if my results were good enough to justify the effort.

Well, I was shocked when I went to SAMs Club to check out pork shoulder that it was only $1.98/lb. I HAD to try the recipe once I saw that. So I picked up a 15 pound package (they were all over 14 lbs). I was glad that I noticed the cookbook had TWO recipes for pork shoulder (also called Boston Butt), so I split the meat and tried it both ways.

The first way I tried was the faux-smoked style. You brine the meat, then rub both wet and dry seasonings on it, then cook it covered for several hours, then uncovered to finish. It was awesome! The liquid smoke was somewhat off-putting straight (I tried a drop), but it did work beautifully as used in the recipe. And I didn't take an accurate measurement up front, but I estimate I started with 7 pounds of uncooked meat, and wound up with 4 pounds of pulled pork barbecue. I did the math in the kitchen and if I remember correctly I think it wound up costing $3.40/pound, so a tremendous savings over the real thing. But the flavor I got in my own kitchen was great, so the only reason to go back to the local guy would be for convenience. But now that I have several pounds of pork BBQ neatly packed away in my freezer, it will be very convenient to serve pork BBQ sandwiches the next night I'm too tired to cook.

The way I cooked the rest of the meat today is a traditional roast. Except that instead of rubbing it with salt and pepper, you rub it with equal parts salt and brown sugar and wrap it tightly and let it sit overnight. And the sauce was made with peaches and thyme. The salt/sugar coating made the outside nice and crispy. Although I didn't do a good enough job of wiping off the excess salt before putting it in the oven, so mine turned out too salty. But that was just the outer crust, the interior meat was perfect.

Mmmmmm, I do love me some slow-cooked meat. I like when the collagen gets all melted and emulsified and makes everything taste so rich and delicious. And now that I've got two techniques down for dealing with the pork shoulder, I think I can come up with my own versions to season it in the future. It much more economic than beef short ribs although I do prefer the taste of the beef ribs, so it's not going to replace that by any means. But being able to cook this cut of pork myself instead of having to buy it already cooked is a nice skill to add to my repertoire. It is certainly a good way to feed a crowd for a party.

So there you have the update to what I've been doing lately. Cooking pork for five to seven hours a day. And happy to have my freezer replenished with ready-to-heat dinners for the inevitable days when something comes up and I just can't cook.