by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
It's a damned poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.
— Andrew Jackson, US President.
Over the years, folks have been enjoying barbicue, barbique, barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Cue, Bar-B-Q, BBQ, Cue, and just plain Q. But whatever it's called, it's the process of cooking pork over low heat for a long period of time, slowly softening the connective tissue and rendering it so tender that it practically falls apart before it even needs to be "pulled."
It's impossible to know just how far back the barbecue tradition goes. It can possibly be traced to Native American cooking techniques, traditional Scottish/Irish Boar Roasts, or to pirates who frequented the shores of the Americas. These pirates cured meat by smoking it slowly over a fire. The French pronunciation for the process was "boucan" and these pirates were called "boucaniers" (or in modern vernacular, buccaneers).
However, the source of the term we use, "barbecue," goes back to when the Spanish arrived in the Americas. They discovered the Taino Indians of the West Indies cooking meat and fish over a pit of coals on a framework of green wooden sticks. The Spanish spelling of the Indian name for that framework was "barbacoa." Both the name and method of cooking found their way to North America, possibly by those buccaneers. George Washington noted in his diary of 1769 that he "went up to Alexandria to a barbicue."
By the time of the American Civil War, hogs had been domesticated and pork had become the principal meat of the South. Not surprisingly, pork has been synonymous with Southern barbecue ever since. Indeed, barbecues have long been a popular social occasion in the South. Traditionally, a pit was dug in the ground, filled with hardwood firewood which was burned down to coals, and whole hogs skewered on poles were hung over the pit. The hogs would be turned on the spits overnight and the next day the cooked meat was pulled off the carcass and slathered with a favorite finishing sauce. That's why a social affair centered around pork barbecue is still affectionately called a "Pig Pickin."
The side dishes at a pig pickin' were legendary. Various salads, casseroles, pickles, preserves, and a whole host of desserts were prepared for the event. Some items were mandatory. Cole slaw, for instance, had to be served, although the exact recipe varied from region to region and family to family. Of course the bread accompaniment was the ubiquitous hushpuppy, the fried cornmeal staple of Southern life since Colonial times. And gallons and gallons of fresh brewed sweet tea (don't dare call it iced tea), sometimes flavored with lemon, rounded out the meal.
While it my still be done at the back of premier barbecue restaurants, barbecuing a whole hog for home cooking is a bit of overkill. Today, this tender, fatty, and flavorful meat is usually made with pork shoulder (sometimes referred to as pork butt, Boston shoulder, Boston butt, or picnic shoulder)—an inexpensive cut. While traditional pulled pork is smoked, it can be made at home by braising the shoulder in the oven until the meat falls apart, or by using a slow cooker.
1 3-pound pork shoulder
2 onions, sliced thick
1 12-oz can Dr. Pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
Place thick-sliced onions in bottom of crock pot. Rub the pork shoulder with the salt, pepper and garlic powder, and then place it on top of the onions. Pour the can of Dr. Pepper over the pork. Add the brown sugar to the liquid and stir.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. When it's done, the pork will be dark and fork-tender. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred completely. Spoon the fat from the liquid. Return the meat to the slow cooker and keep in the liquid until ready to serve.
Lift the shredded pork out of mixture and place in a bun. Cover with your favorite brand of barbecue sauce. Serve with Cole slaw.
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