Perfect Pulled Pork Recipe . . . in a Taco with Pickled Tomatoes
Flying to another country to see a best friend you haven’t seen for years — that takes a long time, but when the plane lands, the excitement is overwhelming.
Sleeping through the night before your birthday or Christmas when you’re a kid — that feels like forever, but in the morning you’re beside yourself with joy.
Hiking to the top of a mountain — you think you’ll never get there, but when you do, the feeling is exhilarating.
Some things are simply worth the wait.
Pulled pork is without question one of those things! When I want this unbelievably succulent and tasty meat, I start the cooking process at least two days earlier.
I make the brine and let it cool. Then the pork soaks in the brine for hours, and hours. When it’s soaked long enough, I make the spice rub, add it to the pork, and place it in the oven for hours, and hours.
And when it’s finally tender, it “rests” a while. Then, and only then can I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m not there yet. Now I pull, and pull, until every bit of the shredded, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth pork fills a bowl.
And when I have my first bite, I’m thinking that it was so worth the wait!
I love making tacos with the pulled pork — and they’re so incredible with a couple of spoon fulls of Pickled Tomatoes!
Perfect Pulled Pork Tacos with Pickled Tomatoes
1 (approximately 4-pound) Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder)
For the brine:
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
5 small cinnamon sticks
6 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 gallon water
1/2 pound Kosher salt (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups ice
For the spice rub:
2 tablespoons of each: ground cumin, ground oregano, smoked paprika, and brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of each: ground cinnamon and ground cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fix-ins for approximately 2 dozen tacos:
Olive oil for the pan
2 dozen small corn tortillas
2 to 3 cups Pickled Tomatoes (The recipe is here.)
2 bunches cilantro, washed and dried
2 large avocados, thinly sliced
For the brine:
- Combine all of the spices (first 6 ingredients) in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a medium-sized stock pot, bring the water to a boil with the salt and sugar. Stir once it's boiling to be sure all of the salt and sugar has dissolved.
- Turn the heat to low and add the bowl of spices. Let this steep over the low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Then turn off the heat and let the brine come to room temperature. (With a large quantity of liquid, cooling could take a while.)
- Once the brine is room temperature, place the pork in a large container, making sure it will be big enough that it won't overflow once you add the brine.
- Add the ice to the brine and carefully pour it over the meat -- I would do this step in the sink, if the container fits. Cover the container with the lid (if there is one), or plastic wrap. Either way, make sure the meat is completely submerged in the brine, and that it's sealed tightly. Place the container in the refrigerator and brine for at least 18 hours and up to about 24 hours.
For the rub:
- At some point while the meat is in the brine, mix all of the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Be sure they are well blended and set aside.
- When you're ready to remove the meat from the brine, preheat the oven to 225 degrees F, and adjust a rack to the center.
- Remove the meat and place it in a roasting pan -- one that's big enough so there are at least a few inches of room all around it. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. (If the fat is really excessive, you can trim some off at this point -- but leave at least thin layer.)
- Now add the spice rub to the entire surface of the meat, and use your hands to "rub" it in to be sure it adheres -- all of the sides should be well coated. The fat side should be facing up in the pan!
- Place the pan in the 225 degree F oven and slow roast the meat for about 2 hours per pound. When it's done the internal temperature should be about 190 degrees F.
- Once you remove it from the oven, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest for about an hour.
- Then place the meat on a large, clean work surface. Gently lift and remove any large pieces crusted fat on the top. Now you "pull" the meat apart with your hands. It should fall apart very easily.
- To make the taco shells:
- Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with the oil and place it over medium-high heat. Add as many of the tortillas as you can fit. Sauté each side for a minute or so, until they are crisp. Use kitchen tongs or a fork to fold each one in half. Repeat until all of the tortillas are done.
- Warm the pulled pork and serve it along side all of the fix-ins and taco shells.
Please note that all but 1 hour of the time this takes is simply waiting.
Using corn tortillas makes this a gluten-free meal.
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