This month’s installment of Eat This, Drink That was a bit of a doozy for Scout. While she’s not a frequent cook, she’s pretty good at following recipes when the occasion arises. But when it comes to preparing meat, most recipes expect you to have some previous experience in the matter, which she does not. In this case, though, her desire to master the Southern staple of pulled pork outweighed her inexperience. So she mustered up her courage (and her best barbecue sauce) and pressed on.
Now Scout isn’t crazy: She wasn’t going to step right into the slow-smoked real deal (tiny New York apartments, one day off per week, and a lack of a giant smoker prevented this), so she went with this crockpot version from Chowhound instead. After spending most of the week trying and failing to fight off sickness, she found herself this past Sunday with a sniffly nose, staring at a bone-in pork shoulder that she had no idea what to do with. Cue copious amounts of help from her roommate, Claire, and general culinary flailing. Go Team Pork! (We’ll work on the name.)
First, they had to make sure that the slow cooker their old roommate left behind when she went back to Copenhagen, one, was actually a slow cooker, and, two, actually worked. The answer to both those question being a resounding yes, Scout went back to bed for three hours. Later, well-rested and mostly ready to cook, the fun began. After tracking down a recipe, checking that her it’s-my-day-off-and-I’m-sick outfit was leaving-the-house appropriate, and making a last minute trip to the grocery, they were ready start.
Slow cooker recipes are generally easy. Throw everything in a pot and cook for a long time. Right? Mostly, right. A cup of chicken broth, four cloves of garlic, and two yellow onions went in the bottom of the slow cooker. Then they combined one tablespoon each of dark brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, salt and a dash of cinnamon to make a dry rub. So far so good. But then, Scout and her kitchen spirit guide were faced with what to do with the pork shoulder itself. Leave the bone in or take it out? Trim off the skin or leave it on? They were stumped.
So they did what any two millennial girls in their pajamas faced with a large piece of raw meat would do: They asked the internet. Google said to leave both skin and bone in place for juicier meat later on. Yay problem solving! Armed with their new knowledge, it was back to the recipe: Pat the pork dry with paper towels and rub it thoroughly with the, well, rub. Put the pork shoulder into the slow cooker (skin up) and cook for eight hours (turn the pork over halfway through).
And then the waiting.
Allow us to to take this intermission to talk Zelda’s cocktail! (Strictly speaking, by the time she arrived at Scout’s pad Monday morning, ingredients in hand, the pork was already done and ready for eating, but all that timey-wimey, wibbly wobbly stuff is relative anyway. Right? Right.) This month, Zelda decided to tackle the hot toddy (not to be confused with hotty toddy, rallying cry of Ole Miss fans everywhere). This hot cocktail has two advantages. Number one, it is cozy and decidedly fall/wintery. Number two, it is a long-standing old wives remedy for colds, so we were hoping it would kick Scout’s sniffles into alcoholic submission (or at least get her drunk enough not to care about her slowly imploding sinuses).
There are many variations on this cold weather classic, but Zelda decided to work from this Wine Enthusiast recipe for the Classic Hot Toddy. Hot toddies can be made with brandy, whiskey, or rum — basically anything brown and boozy. For variety’s sake, Zelda took the rum route, picking up a spiced Captain Morgan’s (BOURBON WE STILL LOVE YOU). The other things you’ll need for this drink are honey, lemon juice, hot water, and something fancy for garnish (in this case cinnamon sticks and clove-studded lemon slices, which is a fancy term for pieces of lemon with whole cloves jabbed into them). Other garnish options include star anise or a twist of lemon peel.
The construction of the drink is simple. Combine 1 ½ oz of the liquor of your choice, 1 tablespoon of honey, ½ oz of lemon juice, and 1 cup of hot water in a warmed mug. Stir to combine. Garnish with whatever pretty little wonders you’ve picked, and you’re good to go!
The verdict? The drink was ok, and pretty damn close to the picture (yes, we did make our toddy in a TARDIS mug, because we’re awesome). But after several sips we came to the conclusion that hot toddies are not, in fact, that exciting. Zelda puzzled for several minutes over what could have made it better, and it came down to a lack of flavor. Maybe it would have been better with our beloved bourbon (we knew we shouldn’t have turned our backs on you) or with a nicer and more flavorful spiced rum, or maybe we should have tried subbing Fireball or another flavored liquor for some or all of the alcohol. All in all, though, our toddies were decidedly meh. We’d just as soon scrap the booze and opt for a hot cider instead. But hey, at least we gave it a try.
Returning to the pork, after a nice six to eight hour wait (in the case of our kitchen heroines, closer to eight), the pork will be ready to pull. But when Scout’s batch hit the magic hour, it was two in the morning, so she decided to let it sit in the cooker on the “warm” setting until morning. By the time she woke up, the pork was practically falling of the bone. She pulled the pork on a cutting board using two forks (basically, drag two forks through the meat in opposite directions until it’s well-shredded). After the shoulder started to resemble everyone’s favorite barbecue sandwich, Scout drained the remaining liquid from the slow cooker and transferred the meat back in before adding barbecue sauce and seasoning to taste. The results? Pretty awesome. Maybe even Scout’s most successful cooking venture yet. The only slight hiccup was the (maple bacon) barbecue sauce, which was a tad sweet. A little extra cumin and chili powder cut the sweetness nicely though, taking it from porky dessert to scrumptious entrée status.