I have a favorite recipe for pulled pork.
My older sister Penny saw The Spice Trip on SBS, an Australian TV show that featured chili in Mexico.
She especially loved watching the Mexican kids—she said that they loved hot chili.
She thought of me as the show recommended a pulled pork recipe that needed to cook for five hours in a 350 F oven, which made her think it would be great in my Aga—a four-oven-cast-iron-enameled cooker that’s on 24/7.
She was right. The first time I made it for friends, my husband said the meal was singing, and our friends demanded the recipe.
I never feel territorial about recipes, and happily e-mailed the URL to Cheryl. Funny thing was, as she and her family were visiting from Amsterdam, they stayed with us in the wilderness of New Hampshire for a week, then they visited other mutual friends in Pennsylvania, and the first thing they did with our other friends Mike and Gina, was cook them this pulled pork.
But this recipe continued to travel. A few months later we were staying in New York City at a hotel with Penny and her partner Roland, who were in town for a few days. One night we all went out to dinner at a sushi restaurant with our friends Mike and Gina, and they began to rave about this pulled pork our Dutch friends had made them.
“You know that recipe originally came from Penny in Australia, who is now sitting here with us in New York City, she e-mailed it to me, I made it for Cheryl and Twan, and they made it for you!”
We were all amused that the recipe had gone full circle, and that Penny had never cooked it herself.
She hadn’t even tasted it.
But that was remedied when our younger sister Stasia and I cooked it for a family reunion in Sydney just last October. Penny finally got to taste it and she loved it as everyone else has.
Cooking for the day with my sister Stasia whom I don’t often get to see, as we live in different countries, was a special treat. There’s a certain alchemical magic that happens with cooking sometimes—I know what my husband means when he says the food is singing.
Stasia told me that she is very conscious of her intention to nourish and heal people when she creates food. I feel the same way.
Today I made the pulled pork again. It’s five degrees Farenheit outside, and it was eighty-five degrees in Sydney when I made it with Stasia. Although she’s on the opposite side of the planet, I felt close to her as I created this same dish today.
The last time I cooked it four months ago, was with her. I remembered our conversations in the kitchen that day. The laughs and giggles. This pulled pork is cooked in hard cider, and of course we had to sample several ciders before choosing one to add to the pork…which of course enhanced our enjoyment of the cooking experience.
Cooking with friends or family is an event that can be shared. Eating together, cooking together; there are deep, ancestral roots throughout every culture of this experience—this is how we share love together.
Another friend posted on Facebook today: “You know, I just love non-ordinary reality and how truly enchanted life can be when we allow it.” This applies to food too: it’s not just the physical ingredients that make a meal, there’s an energetic ingredient too.
Our western rational minds like to dismiss anything that can’t be proved by the scientific method, or be rationally explained. But what about the things we can’t explain? What is it about our mothers’ food that is so deeply nourishing and delicious?
It’s become cliched to say it was cooked with love. But perhaps we need to pay more attention to the energy we create our food with. Perhaps writers like Michael Pollan, doctors like Dr. Andrew Weil, film-makers who create documentaries like Food, Inc. are telling us something we can no longer ignore.
Stevie Parle’s slow-cooked pulled pork is packed with spice and served the traditional way with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
“This dish is seriously rewarding. You may want to cook it overnight, or start it in the morning so it’s ready in time for dinner. It doesn’t take too long to set up and the final result is worth the wait. If you can’t find chipotle or ancho chillies, add an extra teaspoonful of paprika instead.”
½ shoulder of pork, (about 2kg/4½lb) off the bone
250ml dry cider or apple juice (8.5 oz)
For the dry rub:
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 dried chilli or 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 2 chipotle or ancho chillies
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ tbsp coriander seeds
- ½ tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
For the barbecue sauce:
- 400ml passata (13.5 oz crushed tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 60ml/2 oz cider vinegar
For the coleslaw:
- ½ white cabbage, finely sliced
- 1 bunch (about 300g) radishes, finely sliced
- 2 apples
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 handfuls each of coriander and mint leaves
- juice of 2 limes
- Olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 7 = approx. 400F (392).
2. Grind the dry rub ingredients in a pestle and mortar until coarse. Remove the skin from the pork and discard or use for crackling
3. Sprinkle the pork generously with salt.
4. In a deep, flameproof casserole (white lid), heat a good glug of oil and when hot, brown the pork on both sides.
5. Remove from the casserole and cover with the dry rub, making sure you get it in all the nooks and crannies.
6. Drain the excess fat from the casserole and return the pork to it.
7. Pour the cider or apple juice over the pork. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1 = approx. 300F (285), cover and cook for a further 3½-5 hours, until the meat is soft and pulls apart easily. Top up with extra cider, juice or water if necessary
8. Remove from the oven. Keeping the pork in the casserole, carefully pour off the liquid into a large pan.
9. Bring this liquid to the boil, add the barbecue sauce ingredients and season. Turn the heat down and leave to bubble for 10–15 minutes, until it has thickened and reduced a little.
10. Meanwhile pull the pork apart with a fork so it’s nicely shredded.
11. Make the coleslaw by combining all the cabbage, radishes, spring onions and apples. Tear the herbs over it and squeeze in the lime juice, along with a small drizzle of oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
12. Pour the barbecue sauce over the pork and serve with the coleslaw.
Author: Camilla Sanderson
Editor: Renee Picard
Image: ddqhu at Flickr