The sun is beginning to cast longer and longer shadows as it sinks into its western resting place at the end of the day. The temperatures are cooler, the breezes are crisper, the trees are tinged with bursts of red. Every night is a good sleeping night.
Sure, fall is coming. It happens every year. That doesn’t stop us from feeling wistful about summer’s end. My wife and I recently packed up the dogs and headed out for a mini-vacation. The weather was a perfect blend: cool enough to not feel annoyingly hot and sticky, and warm enough to swim without worrying about catching pneumonia. We had stumbled onto the end-of-summer sweet spot. We found a small stretch of beach, got out the beach blanket and boogie board, and enjoyed one of the last perfect days of the waning summer.
Another thing that happens this time of year is a phenomenon I like to call the Let’s-Hurry-Up-And-Do-Something-Amazing-And-Instagram-Worthy-So-Our-Kids-Have-Something-To-Talk-About-When-Their-Teacher-Asks-Them-What-They-Did-On-Their-Summer-Vacation Syndrome. I guess other people just call it the end-of-summer break.
If you’re one of those parents, scurrying around and bending over backwards to give your beloved children the end-of-summer opportunity of a lifetime, you may want to shave some minutes off your meal prep time. That’s where pulled pork steps in and saves the day. The rich, full flavor of the pork is the perfect thing to pull you into fall and the bright and tangy crispness of the coleslaw is there to remind you that you’ve still got some summer left, you should go out and enjoy it.
Pulled pork really shines in its ease of preparation. Just season a pork shoulder in the morning, cover it in a pan, throw it in a slow oven and forget it. Supper is done.
If you want pulled pork sliders for lunch, put the shoulder in the night before and let it cook overnight. Pork shoulder is very forgiving. It will just get more tender the longer you leave it in the oven. Put it on some slider buns or mini-kaiser rolls with some barbecue sauce and a little coleslaw and serve it with a pickle and your favorite chips. That’s the end-of-summer sweet spot right on your plate.
Now go out and grab that little stretch of beach. You have the time and the weather will never be better.
3-4 lb. boneless pork shoulder
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. kosher or coarse sea salt
2 T. paprika
2 T. chili powder
2 T. granulated garlic
1 T. dried thyme
1 T. dry mustard
1 t. allspice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together and rub all over pork shoulder. Place shoulder into a roasting pan and put into preheated oven and roast for 6 hours or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees and the meat separates easily when pulled with a fork. If you are cooking overnight, lower the temperature to 275 and cook for 8-10 hours.
Remove pork from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Using two forks, pull the meat apart until it is mostly shredded with some chunks. Remove any fat or connective tissue that has not melted and set aside.
Place reserved fat and connective tissue along with the juices from the pan into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and pour back into the pulled pork. This step will recapture any lost flavor and ensure that your pork stays moist.
Serve on soft buns of your choice with or without barbecue sauce and topped with coleslaw. Accompany with chips and a pickle.
Salting and rinsing your cabbage before mixing your slaw keeps the cabbage from releasing liquid later and making the dressing watery.
1 head green cabbage, shredded
2 T. coarse sea salt
¾ c. mayonnaise
¼ c. apple cider vinegar
¼ c. sugar
1 T. spicy brown mustard
1 T. Old Bay seasoning
1 c. shredded carrot
½ large red onion, julienned (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the 2 tablespoons salt and let set for 15 minutes to a half hour. While the cabbage brines, mix the dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and Old Bay in another large bowl and whisk until smooth.
Place brined cabbage into a colander and rinse with cold water, squeezing gently for 2-3 minutes. Spread out onto a clean towel and gently blot dry with another towel.
Put cabbage into the bowl with the dressing and add the carrot and onion. Mix thoroughly and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve on top of pulled pork in a sandwich or as a side dish.