I pride myself on keeping a fairly well stocked pantry of basics. Imagine my surprise today when I didn’t have enough barbeque sauce or ketchup to follow the recipe for pulled pork barbeque in my trusty The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (2006).
Hmmn. I was already browning the pork. Instead of boneless Boston butt (how’s that for alliteration—poetry is everywhere) I had picked up a 3 lb. package of boneless country style ribs on sale at the local Harris-Teeter. These ribs were lovely and quite lean. I sprinkled them liberally with Tony Chachere’s Cajun spice mixture. Chachere’s mix has salt, pepper along with spicy hotness. Go easy on it if you don’t enjoy a bit of zing.
The boneless ribs browned in canola oil in my square iron skillet (I’m no pioneer woman so, no, there aren’t photos, but honestly, I trust you to have enough imagination to picture pork browning in a skillet. While you’re at it, imagine a lovely fresh pork aroma).
I scanned the fridge and cupboard shelves. The recipe called for either a bottled barbeque sauce or asked me to make my own sauce with a ketchup base.
Instead, here’s what I substituted, mixing the ingredients together in the crock pot:
1 cup jarred salsa, mild
1 cup dark ale
½ cup catsup
½ cup commercial barbeque sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s with Vidalia onion)
1/3 cup cider vinegar or more to taste
¼ cup sorghum (or molasses or honey would work)
2 tablespoons of coarse deli mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
Next, I sautéed the following ingredients in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of canola oil for about 10 minutes, then transferred them to mixture already in the crock pot.
1 chopped green bell pepper
2 chopped hot banana peppers
2 stalks celery
1 chopped sweet onion
Once the ribs were browned, I transferred them into the mixture of ingredients in the crock pot. If I’m going to be around the house, I put the crock pot on high until the meal is bubbling, then I turn it down to low. If I’ll be out of the house, I use the low setting. The ribs cooked on low for about 4-5 hours and that was plenty of time.
Pull the pork out and shred it with your hands or using two forks. We like ours on a sandwich or just plain on a plate. You can drizzle some of the thin sauce from the crock pot on the pulled pork. The sauce still has chunks of onion and peppers in it for a nice flavor. The hot peppers really brought the pork up a notch. By the second or third bite, I was loving the flavor of this pork. I put a little extra cider vinegar on my mine at the table.
Coleslaw is really a necessity with this dish, but cabbage was not in the fridge so we made do with garlicky dill pickles. That doesn’t qualify as hardship in our house! Cornbread or biscuits go well, as do some nice barbeque baked beans, if you have them. A green salad can stand in for the coleslaw if you aren’t having any hardcore Southerners over. They may look askance at a salad, but they’ll be too polite to say anything.