Yours truly, watching over two slow-cooking pork shoulders about ten days ago. The meat has been cooking about three hours, more or less, here.
I've had a few questions about this in the past couple of days, so I thought I'd provide my (grandfather's) own recipe and then direct those of you who'd like more information to the wonders of the Internet (thank you Al Gore!).
For this recipe, you'll need the following:
The Pork BBQ. . .
2 large pork shoulders
1 large bag of charcoal
A covered grill. Not an open bearbecue pit!
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
Coursely ground black pepper (to taste)
1 package of good quality hamburger roles
The Slaw. . .
1 large head of cabbage
Equal parts white sugar, white vinegar, ketchup
Lea and Perrin's Worcester Sauce (to taste)
Course ground black pepper (to taste)
The Iced Tea. . .
1 two quart pitcher
5 bags of Lipton tea
3 sprigs of spearmint
1 cup of sugar
The Process Explained. . .
1) Slow cook two large pork shoulders over indirect heat for 6-8 hours. I use a domed Weber grill with Kingsford charcoal and wet hickory chips to help the flavor. I set the two pork shoulders off to one side, so they are not directly over the coals, which I bank against the oppisite side of the grill.
2) Baste your meat once every hour with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and course ground black pepper. Not only does this help to flavor the meat, but it also helps to dry it out. True BBQ is not moist, but rather dry in texture or consistency, and that's where the red sauce comes in, which I'll discuss in a moment. You'll also need to add about 8-12 new charcoal briquettes to your coals every hour. It's a good ideal to do all of this at the same time, so you aren't running outside to check the meat/grill constantly during the day. You won't need to stand next to the grill all day, but it's a good idea to leave your schedule pretty open when you make North Carolina pork BBQ yourself.
3) While your meat is cooking, chop a large head of cabbage by hand with a large, sharp kitchen knife (blenders and food processors won't work well -- I've tried them) until it's "fine course" -- tiny pieces about the size of a pencil eraser, give or take. Salt moderately and bruise the cabbage by squeezing it with your clean hands in a big bowl. Set to one side.
4) Mix your red sauce. This is the type of BBQ sauce found across the central Piedmont area of North Carolina. Other regions have their own variation, either ketchup or mustard based. Anyway, the basic recipe is equal parts of white sugar, white vinegar, and Heinz ketchup. Add some course ground black pepper and Lea and Perrin's worcester sauce to taste. How in the heck do you spell that word anyway? Once you have a mixture your like (I prefer to go just a bit light on the Ketchup), add it to your chopped cabbage and mix everything together in a huge bowl. Put in refrigerator to cool.
5) You'll probably need to mix up another batch of this red sauce to sprinkle on your sandwiches. Put it in a shaker bottle, a small cream pitcher, or take the really blue-blooded approach and use what we use -- an empty squeeze ketchup bottle that we saved and washed out for just this purpose! And remember, equal parts (more or less) white sugar, white vinegar, and ketchup with a bit of worcester sauce and course ground black pepper to add some "zing."
NOTE -- this is a tangy, spicy and delicious mixture. It's not "hot", but if your palate is not used to spicy things, you'd best skip this recipe because you won't enjoy the heavy smoked flavor of the meat or the tangy sauce and red slaw. "Caveat eator!" as they used to say in Ancient Rome!
6) Make a tall pitcher of sweetened iced tea. Lipton's makes the best. And be sure to add three large sprigs of mint if you have it, to give your tea an extra burst of flavor. Let the five teabags steep for about 5-6 minutes before removing them. Leave the sprigs of mint in your pitcher of tea though. Chill in the refrigerator until dinner time.
7) When the outside of your pork shoulders are pleasantly done -- crispy, but not too black -- remove them carefully from the grill, and set onto a platter. Let cool on the kitchen counter for about two hours. Fix your self a scotch & water or gin & tonic and set a spell on the front porch!
8) While someone else sets the table for dinner, it's time to put on your apron, wash your hands well, and start a pullin' that pork. This is the part of the job that I like the least, but you'll soon get used to it. Gently pull the pieces of pork -- it should come off in large chucks in you hand without to much effort -- into finger-long fairly small pieces. The natural tendency of a slow-cooked pork shoulder is shred fairly easily. Pull both of your pork shoulders now. It will take you about an hour. The job is more difficult and time consuming if you chill the meat and try to pull it later it later.
9) Once all of this is done, serve your bowl of warm shredded pork BBQ, red slaw, and an extra vessel of the coveted red sauce. Call the chillun's* to the table and get ready for a truly ambrosial experience! The best way to eat pork BBQ is in "good" hamburger or kaiser rolls (NOT the cheapest ones available) with a liberal amount of the extra sauce sprinkled over your meat. Replace the top half of the your buns and enjoy your sandwiches with the red slaw on the side. For an even more authentic central North Carolina touch, it's perfectly acceptable to add a spoonful or two of the red slaw to your sandwich before replacing the top half of your bun.
10) Pork BBQ sandwiches and red slaw can be a messy meal! Given the preponderance of ketchup in this recipe, it's probably best not to use your nicest table linens for this meal. Use paper dinner napkins instead and have plenty on hand. And it's probably best to wear old clothes to the dinner table too because it's awfully easy to drip/splash red sauce onto that favorite madras shirt or pair of khaki shorts. . . even if you pride yourself on really nice table manners, and it's devilishly hard to get those kinds of stains out! For these reasons, the picnic table in the backyard is probably the most ideal place to enjoy this sort meal.
And there you go, men! You will probably be too full for dessert, but if you want to live dangerously, a scoop or two of peach ice cream -- or better yet, some peach cobbler -- is a fine way to finish this delightful Southern culinary experience. I think my maternal grandparents, Dave (from Lexington, NC) and Vivian (from Asheville, NC) would have approved!
If you have any questions, just drop me a line, and I'll be happy to expound on the intricacies of North Carolina pork BBQ. Now, it's your job to give it a try. You'll never think about BBQ'ed meat the same way again!
*A dialectal form of "children", which my grandmother used when she was bein' funny.