Let’s Cook! Polynesian-style Pulled Pork
August 17, 2011
A couple of items sampled recently at the World, and with the inclusion of a Hawaiian booth at this years Epcot Food and Wine Festival, inspired me to go into the Eating (and Drinking) Around the World Kitchens and come up with a tasty, Polynesian/Hawaiian/Island-styled pig dish…
The traditional Hawaiian version of big-pieces-of-pork-cooked-slowly is called Kalua Pork, and it involves pork seasoned pretty simply with sea salt and wrapped in banana leaves… oh yeah, you cook it in a pit in the ground…
Not that I’m averse to the idea of digging up my backyard and filling it with rocks and coals to cook some tasty pig, but my neighbors, and the Homeowners Association, may have other ideas…
So in researching recipes for Kalua Pork, most involved cooking in the oven for a long time seasoning with sea salt and copious amounts of liquid smoke… I’m sure would turn out edible, but I decided to go in a different direction…
Many, many moons ago I made my last (and only) trip to Hawaii – one of the things I sill recall is how pineapple in one form or another seemed to be in every dish – a spear was in your iced tea, pineapple juice was in the cole slaw dressing, etc…
So I came up with a marinade that I think many of us would feel has the “Flavors of the Islands” – pineapple, soy, rum (gotta have a Mai Tai, right?) – probably not really very authentic, but I think it turned out nicely and still gives you the feeling of something tropical and “island-ish”…
Keep in mind this is not a last-minite dish – you have significant marinating time, and it needs to cook for quite a while, so be sure to plan ahead…
So now, let’s cook!
Polynesian-style Pulled Pork
For the marinade:
1 3″ long piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Dark Rum
1 cup Soy Sauce
3 cups Pineapple Juice
Salt to taste
Liquid Smoke (optional, see below)
For the pork:
1 Pork Butt (bone-in or boneless, your pick, I usually chose the bone-in – most will run between 3 – 6 pounds, bigger will just take a bit longer to cook…)
Dark Brown Sugar to coat (2-4 tbls)
Coarse Sea Salt to coat (Hawaiian if you have, 2-4 tbls)
To make the marinade, put all the ingredients except the salt (and liquid smoke) into a blender or food processor (if yours isn’t big enough to take all comfortably, just use part of the juice and mix the rest in later) – blend until the ginger and garlic are smushed and well incorporated into the liquids. Add salt to taste. If you are going to cook the pork in the oven instead of an outside smoker, you may want to use a bit of Liquid Smoke in the marinade – your call – just be judicious, try maybe 1/2-1 tsp or so.
Take out a cup or a little less of the marinade and stick in the fridge.
Now take your piece of pig and put into a big zip-lock bag – add the remaining marinade, zip it up (removing as much extra air as possible), and put the bag-o-pig into a proper size container and stick it into the ice box for at least overnight.
If you have a marinade injector (nothing more than a syringe with a big needle at one end), you can also inject part of the marinade deep into the meat all over. You can find this goodie for just a few bucks, and if you marinate many larger pieces of meat, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Remove your butt (the pork butt, that is) from the refrigerator about an hour or so before you plan to stick it into your cooking vehicle of choice (oven or smoker…).
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (or light/prepare your smoker/grill/etc).
Remove the meat from the marinade (and discard the marinade) and dry well with paper towels. Rub all over with some coarse sea salt and a bit of brown sugar – just enough to color the outside, don’t try and make a thick crust of the sugar.
If cooking in the oven, place the meat in a roasting pan (on a rack if you have one) and cook uncovered for 4 to 6 hours (depending on the size) until very tender. Internal temps should actually be around 195-200 degrees.
If you’re going to use an outside smoker, I’m going to go under the grand assumption you already have some knowledge of low-and-slow butt smoking… so knock yourself out with your favorite method… I’d shoot for about 275 degrees (indirect cooking with smoking wood, I used Guava Wood chunks from Hawaii to complete the “Island” theme) and let it go for as long as 10-12 hours… some real “butt pros” will smoke at even a bit lower temps for as long as 18-24 hours.
Now you may think that a piece of pork cooked to 200 degrees would be horribly overcooked, but when you take a fatty piece of meat and take a long time at a low temp to get to that point, magical things happen… the connective tissues and fat seem to melt away and it becomes, well, something wonderful…
When done, remove your butt from the oven/smoker and allow to cool a bit until you can handle it (probably at least 1/2 hour or a little more). You can pull and shred by hand or use a couple of forks to shred into as fine pieces as you like.
Be sure the dark outside coating (what ‘cue aficionados refer to as the “bark”) is well mixed in with the softer inner meat. Now you’ll want to add more seasoning – use your reserved marinade to mix in with the shredded pork – just enough to season, but not make it sopping wet. You may also want some more nice coarse sea salt as well – taste and season as you like.
So what shall you do with this? You can simply serve on a plate with some rice and veggies of choice, or put on a bun (duhhh…) with you choice of condiments, or…
Well, I say for you to put the recipe in your back pocket, and we’ll have a couple of uses for you soon (well, as soon as we normally get around to things here…).
Keep in mind that pulled pork usually freezes very well, so even if you don’t plan on eating this puppy (or rather, piggy) right off, you can make when you have time and stick into the freezer for a bit.
That’s it for now – take a stab at this pig and let us know what you think. The same marinade should also be good on pork tenderloin or chops, chicken pieces, or even a nice rib eye…
Back to the kitchen…