My friend Margaret thinks she can pretty accurately guess my order before I've even opened my mouth. If there’s pork on the menu, I’m rolling up my sleeves, tucking a napkin into my collar and salivating like a husky before the waiter returns to take our order. You better believe I’m all over that porky goodness (unless they’re all out – in which case I spend the evening howling at the moon).
I never realised my obsession with pork until Mags mentioned she wasn’t really into Australian pork. “Smells funny," she explained. Now, I’ve grown up with Australian pongy pork, so hadn’t realised there was a stench until she pointed it out. It’s like being used to your own B.O – kinda embarrassing once it’s brought to your attention. In England (where she’s from), pork is sweet-smelling and divine-tasting. Here in Aus? NQR for her tastes.
Once stinky pork had been brought to my attention, I decided I needed to track down a supplier that wouldn’t offend my delicate friend’s sensibilities. Apparently only 20% of male pigs have the smelly problem, but that risk is higher for the poor little fellows kept in confined conditions. Best excuse to go free range if I ever heard it (besides the thought of a cute little Babe-like fella running free in green pastures, but that’s just the softy in me coming out).
If you’ve ever looked for free-range pork products, you’d know how rare they are: supermarkets don’t commonly stock them, and when they do, it’s pretty limited in range. I’d also question their definition of “free range” in some instances (apparently in recent times the number of chickens allowed per hectare to gain the label in supermarkets increased 6-fold!).
I spied Bundarra Berkshires in my butcher’s cabinet and angels appeared out of nowhere, playing harps and singing in unison “Joy to the world, free range pork has come! Let earth receive her pig!” No more pork stink. Sweet, tender meat and cured products that don’t just hit a home run, they hit the ball out of the park, with bases loaded and win the World Series. And that’s about the extent of my baseball lingo.
I love me a good roast pork. I love a twice cooked pork belly. Bacon is my breakfast’s best friend (but my love-handles’ worst enemy). But my absolute, can’t-go-passed-it, sell-my-soul-to-satan pork dish? Pulled pork. And the best recipe out there? David Chang’s. It’s sweet, sticky, sharp and all other good things rolled into one. You want to keep your accompaniments pretty simple to avoid overkill (apart, of course, from the broccoli coleslaw you will DEMOLISH by the bucketload).
I’m yet to cook up this recipe for Mags and get her seal of approval, but I get the feeling she’ll give it the thumbs up. Provided England’s still winning the Ashes, her winging Pom routine is kept to a dull roar so we’re in with a fighting chance.
Adapted from David Chang
2kg shoulder pork
½ cup tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp allspice
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp freshly ground coffee
¼ cup molasses
1 cup water
Remove skin from pork, keeping as much fat on the shoulder as possible (you can reserve this for crackling if you’re that way inclined). Heat a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat and place in the pork, fat side down, and seal all sides. Remove the pork from the pan.
Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir for a minute or two until it starts to slightly darken. Add the spices and sugar and cook for a further minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Place the pork back in the pan and cover, cooking over low heat for 4 hours. Stir every so often to ensure the base doesn’t burn.
Once cooked, remove the pork from the sauce and shred the meat with two forks. Add most of the sauce back into the meat and stir to coat evenly. Serve with broccoli coleslaw and buns or tortillas.