Outdoor cooking season is here! Thanks to a benign Mother Nature this past winter, the Northeast will be able to kick off barbeque season at least three to four weeks earlier this year. You don’t need a resident grill expert to begin either. Your oven will do just fine. The pork shoulder, God’s gift to the outdoor picnic, cooks really well inside as well as outside your home. Seasoned to your taste, it cooks quietly and feeds multitudes. Also, it is a perfect answer to an event where rain might be in the forecast.
Cooking a Pork Shoulder
First, choose a pork shoulder, bone in, or bone out, large enough for your party. A 4 ½ to 5 pound boneless shoulder will yield about eight to ten nice sandwiches.
Next, create a seasoning rub for the pork shoulder. A classic barbeque recipe would be 1 ½ Tbsp. salt, ½ Tbsp. black pepper, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon cayenne, 1 Tbsp. garlic and/or onion powder, ¼ cup cider vinegar and ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder.
Another option would be: 1 ½ Tbsp. salt, ½ Tbsp. black pepper, 1 sprig chopped rosemary, 5 leaves chopped sage, 2 sprigs chopped Italian parsley, 5 cloves garlic, chopped, zest of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp. white wine, and 1-2 anchovies, chopped.
Rub the shoulder well with the ingredients. Marinate for at least 3 hours. Place the pork in a heavy bottomed pan such as a Dutch oven, then add ½ cup water. Cover with either a lid or aluminum foil. Cook covered with foil at 250 F for approximately 8 hours, checking hourly after about 4 ½ hours. When it pulls apart easily, it is done.
While the pork is cooking you can make a sauce. A barbeque sauce can be made quickly with 2 cups cider vinegar, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup ketchup, ½ cup mustard, 3 pieces chipotle peppers, pureed, 1 Tbsp. garlic powder, and 4 leaves chopped fresh basil. Simmer it all in a sauce pot for 15 minutes. After shredding and removing any excess fat from the cooked pork, return the meat to a pan and finish with the sauce.
Add a little at a time to your shredded pork, just until it is moist enough. Refrigerate the rest for another time. The traditional barbeque version would be excellent with homemade cole slaw, pickles, thickly cut battered onion rings. For wines, I would recommend a Riesling for a white wine, or a Californian Petite Sirah for a red.
A nice sauce for the other pork shoulder option would be a traditional Tuscan Salsa Verde- which is basically a pesto-like puree of 2 cups Italian parsley leaves, 2-3 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ½ cup minced onion, 2 Tbsp. white wine, 2/3 cup olive oil and 1 Tbsp. chopped capers. Puree everything except the onion and capers in a blender, then transfer to a bowl, and fold in the onion and capers. This type of sauce should be spooned on top of the shredded pork instead of being folded in, and served on a ciabatta roll. This would go well with garlic roasted potatoes and fresh green bean salad. I’d serve a nice Nebbiolo- based red wine like a Ghemme for this one, or a full bodied white.
Brian Goode has been a chef and wine enthusiast for over thirty years, ever since his college days as a science major in Santa Cruz, California, and during his chef training at the Culinary Institute of America. During a Foodservice and Hospitality career in many areas around the country, he has received numerous awards for his cuisine, as well as several Wine Spectator Awards for his wine lists. He and his wife Joanne have been owners of Ye Olde Centerton Inn for seven years. He rarely declines an offer to talk about or taste wine and food.www.centertoninn.com or visit us on facebook