Nice try, chocolate chip cookies. You had a good run, apple pie. But in the end it wasn't even close. I'm referring, of course, to the clear winner of the title for most American of all culinary traditions: Barbecue.
While back in my hometown to visit my parents for Fourth of July, I decided the perfect way to fulfill our patriotic duty - and celebrate our country's 235th birthday - was by smoking a pig. Okay, just the shoulder of the pig in our case, but oh what a succulent, flavorful little shoulder it was.
I teased you with the sauce, but here's the real star of the show: hickory-smoked pulled-pork sandwiches.
Several years ago, my dad upgraded his grill to a larger one with a built-in smoker. Despite being a regular - and accomplished - grill master, regrettably, he has never used the smoker. And while I have perfected the art of slow-cooked, fall-apart-tender barbecue pork in an oven, smoking the meat was new to me as well. It was high-time we tried the sucker out.
I headed to the southern United States for inspiration - a region where the term "barbecue" is generally synonymous with smoked pork cooked low-and-slow, and concocted a special rub to use prior to smoking the meat. Meanwhile, the mixin' sauce pulled ingredient and flavor notes from Kansas City: it's a thick, sweet tomato-based sauce I created with pulled-pork sandwiches specifically in mind.
Smoking meat is a commitment. It takes hours and even days to slowly cook the meat into tenderized, delicious oblivion. Especially the large, tough cuts of beef and pork that are traditionally used for barbecue. Some may have eased into it the first time, and tried smoking some salmon or a whole chicken, which cook to perfection in an hour and a half.
I chose pork butt - also called pork shoulder or Boston butt - because pulled- pork is my very favorite type of southern barbecue
But it's worth it. As you watch the meat fall apart at the lightest touch, and your mouth waters and you finally bite into that succulent sandwich, you forget how long it took to get there.
And it's really not an arduous process. Yes you have to baby the fire along, to maintain an even temperature, and you have to "mop" the meat every so often to keep the meat juicy, but you get to be outside in the sunshine and sip on a cold drink and spend time with family and friends while you do it. Which makes a pretty perfect Fourth of July - or any weekend really.
Follow the jump for recipes and technique...