North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Barbecue
When it came to creating my own barbecue sauce, I looked to North Carolina, a state that's divided into two camps. The idea for the sauce's tomato base comes from the eastern portion of the state, the addition of vinegar from the western portion. The rest is my method of making it all work as a compatible whole. Cooking the meat covered, at a slightly higher temperature than is usual for this dish, yields perfect results in less time.
2 cans (32 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
or to taste
6 cups water
1 1/3 cups cider vinegar salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds pork butt (Boston butt)
soft rolls or sliced white bread, for serving
The day before you plan to cook the meat, prepare the barbecue sauce: Place the tomatoes, molasses, honey, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, cumin black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large heavy pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, 1 1/2 hours.
Add the water and vinegar, and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 1 1/2 hours more. Remove and discard the bay leaves, season with salt, and set the sauce aside to cool. You'll have about 6 cups sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 275°.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an ovenproof casserole or flameproof roasting pan. Add the meat and turn to brown on all sides, 8 minutes per side. Remove the meat and wipe out the casserole.
Place a rack in the bottom of the casserole. Place the meat on the rack and cover with 2 1/2 cups barbecue sauce. Cook, covered, basting, until the meat is cooked through and the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat reads, 150° to 180°, 4 hours. Remove the meat from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, gently heat the reserved barbecue sauce.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, trim off and discard the fat. Shred the meat coarsely with your fingers, or pull it with two forks. Place the shredded meat in a large bowl, and toss it with the warmed sauce. Serve the pork on the rolls or bread. Pass any extra barbecue sauce at table.
Serve with a slaw and pickles on top.