Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lucking out with neighbors... PORK!

We recently sold our house in the "burbs" and bought a small house with a few acres out in the sticks.  I was pleased to find out that our next door neighbor's significant other is a life-long farmer who raises cattle, pigs, etc...  At some point in the next few years, I hope to raise a few wiener pigs (pigs that you get when they are very young for the purposes of slaughtering and butchering them for your own use) for our family.  It'll sure be handy to have someone close-by to run ideas when it comes to doing it ourselves.

In the short-term, we're hoping to get chickens for eggs this spring and perhaps next spring, we'll do a run of 30 broiler chickens for our own meat.  That's the plan at least.

In the meantime, I recently managed to get my Big Green Egg setup and ready to go after our move.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me as I've been unable to fire up the smoker in anger for months on end.

To celebrate, I did some BBQ this past weekend.  Down south, that means pulled pork.  As such, I secured a couple 8lb boston butts (you'll remember from the butchering posts that this actually isn't from the butt area of the hog, but instead its the top part of the shoulder area).

The process is pretty simple when you break it down - put some kind of spice rub on the meat.  Get your cooker set for indirect (like oven heat as opposed to grilling heat) cooking and get the temp to about 225-250 degrees.

Rubbed with Harvest Eating Carolina BBQ Rub
It also wouldn't be proper to do it without smoke.  As such, you need some means of putting smoke in the cooking chamber.  Wood is generally the answer - be they chunks, chips, or logs.  In my case, since I lost all my hardwood in the move (donated to a friend who had a wood burning stove), I made up some foil packets to put pellets in (the same pellets I used when I smoked the ham, bacon, and sausage last year).   made little foil pouches full of the pellets and tossed them on the coals.  This seemed to work fine but I'd like to experiment some more on packet design and placement.

At any rate, the idea is to "smoke" those butts until you have reached an internal meat temperature of about 190-205 degrees.  At a cooking temperature of 225, that can take upwards of 1.5-2 hours per pound.  I put mine on the Egg at about 1am and they came off about 15 hours later.

When the meat draws back off the bone, your getting close!
I was a little concerned; this being the first cook in the new place, as we get a great deal more breeze here and I wasn't sure how much that would affect the temperature fluctuations.  I sat up too late to babysit... in the end, the Egg did what it always does.  Once you get it adjusted, you just leave it be and it does its thing.  That afternoon, it was time to get them off the grill, let them cool, and pull the pork.

This was a cool pull for me because my five year old pitched in.  Pulling is a pretty labor intensive process that requires you to essentially pull the pork meat apart in strands/shreds.  Some folks like to use big knives and chop it all up but I don't like the texture that way and feel like it dries out too quickly.  That's just my opinion - and in the world of BBQ, everyone has one.

The end result, after all the cooking, fat rendering, bone-removal, and trimming during the pulling process, we wound up with about 7lbs of pulled pork.  I see pork tacos in my future!  Left-overs are a wonderful thing and since it takes as long to cook two butts as it does one, you might as well cook plenty.

I may post some additional articles in the coming weeks to talk about some of the specifics of the process.

I'm hungry again just looking at the pictures.