Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making Merry with the Slow Cooker

The tree is glimmering in the night, the air is filled with hints of cinnamon, the gifts are ready to be wrapped, and the sweet joys of Christmas are everywhere. Those holiday perks also mean there's little time to cook supper on busy days. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year, but it often leaves the least amount of time for things like Wednesday night meals. The saving grace is simple. It's the slow cooker.

Instead of racing into the dreaded 5:00 frenzy, I choose to make supper while the mornings are fairly calm and the house is quiet. It's always amazing when the peeps come home in the afternoon and the smell of supper is already wafting throughout the house. It makes for a relaxed mother and one much more likely to be in the holiday spirit.

On several occasions I've turned to Kendra Bailey Morris' Carolina-Style Pork BBQ Sandwiches for nights when I could really use a few elves of my own. After trying these, you might just find yourself adding her new book, The Southern Slow Cooker, to your Christmas list.

Carolina-Style Pork BBQ Sandwiches

Serves 10 to 12 (about 8 cups of meat)

2 large onions, sliced
5-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider or apple juice

2 cups cooking liquid (reserved from the slow-cooked pork)
½ cup water
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper

Buns, slaw, and hot sauce, for serving
Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray.
Put the onions in the slow cooker. Make slits in the pork roast and insert 
the garlic cloves. Rub salt, pepper, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes into the meat. Place the pork in the slow cooker fat side up and pour in the 
vinegar and apple cider. Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours and up to 12 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender.
Transfer the meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. Set aside.
Pour 2 cups of the pan juices into a measuring cup; discard any leftover juices still in the pot. Let cool and skim off any visible fat. Pour this liquid into a saucepan. Add the water, ketchup, cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and add 1 cup of the sauce mixture (more if you like it wet). Give it a stir and set the slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.
Serve the pork straight from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon, along with buns, slaw, and hot sauce. Serve the additional sauce on the side.

Reprinted with permission from The Southern Slow Cooker by Kendra Bailey Morris, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo credit: Erin Kunkel © 2013