June is just one giant party after another.
While I’m trying to catch my breath from the madness of May (which includes Mother’s Day and my dad’s birthday), June comes along with Father’s Day (June 19), my mom’s birthday (June 18), my parent’s wedding anniversary (June 3), and my own wedding anniversary (June 20).
There’s just so much to celebrate!
So, rather than try to celebrate each individual event, my family decided to have one celebration that would cover all the various birthdays and holidays. Originally, our plan was to BBQ and laze about in the sun and eat delicious food together. There was talk of ribs and homemade ice cream! But, the Portland forecast had other ideas. The weather this past weekend was quite lame, to say the least. A BBQ was not in the cards.
But, I wasn’t willing to let the weather win. I was feeling sassy and summery and so I decided to make pulled pork sandwiches. Pulled pork has all the flavor and attitude of BBQ, but can be done indoors with a slow cooker. Done and done.
I’ve made pulled pork a few times over the years and it is always a hit. It’s one of those dishes that is hard to screw up. Throw some pork in a slow cooker, add some seasonings, and walk away for 8 hours. That’s my kind of cooking!
Since I was making the pulled pork for a special occasion, I wanted to jazz up the recipe a bit. I’m not a big fan of ketchup (OK, I think it’s nasty), but a lot of pulled pork recipes use ketchup as part of the sauce base. I was in need of an unconventional and ketchup-free pulled pork. So, I turned to my trusty pantry to see what I could find. I was in luck! I had a few key pantry staples on hand that I knew would work together to make a fabulous BBQ sauce: tomato paste, Sriracha, and blackstrap molasses. The tomato paste would bring the tangy tomato element we’re all used to in BBQ sauce, the Sriacha would add heat, and the molasses would add depth and sweetness.
So, I went for it. I threw it all in a crock pot, walked away for hours, and crossed my fingers that would all work. Thankfully, it did work. It was absolutely and positively delicious. It was everything pulled pork should be – spicy, complex, sweet, smoky, and flavorful. My family and I happily devoured our pulled pork sandwiches (and cole slaw, and potato salad, and cantaloupe, and strawberry shortcake…) and thoroughly enjoyed our celebration of all June holidays. What can I say? I’m a lucky lady. So much to celebrate, and so many wonderful people to celebrate with.
So, here’s to you, June. Here’s to wedding anniversaries, fathers, mothers, celebrations, and a big batch of pulled pork.
Blackstrap Molasses & Sriracha Pulled Pork
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
3-4 lbs pork shoulder
Sriracha & Blackstrap Molasses BBQ Sauce:
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce (more/less depending on how much spice you want)
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Prepare the pork: Mix all spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Rub the outside of the pork with the spices, and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour before cooking (can do this the night before).
Slice the onion thinly, and place most (3/4) of the onion slices in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Cut pork shoulder down into large chunks (2-3 inches) and trim off any excess fat. Place pork pieces atop the onion slices in teh slow cooker. Toss the last onion slices on top of the pork.
Meanwhile, whisk together sauce ingredients: tomato paste, cider vinegar, molasses, Sriracha, ground mustard and black pepper. Pour 1/2 of this mixture over the pork in the slow cooker, reserving the rest of the sauce mixture for later. Cook pork on low heat for 8 hours (Note: I started my pork at 9:30am and needed it to be done by 4 pm. I cooked it on low all morning, but at 2pm I turned the heat up to high.)
When the pork is ready, it should be falling apart and ‘fork tender’. Remove pork (and onions) to a bowl. Discard gristle and shred the pork with 2 forks until desired consistency. Pour any liquid left in the crockpot into a jar, skimming off any unwanted fat. Once the pork has been shredded, place back in the crockpot. Stir in the reserved Sriracha BBQ sauce with the pork. Pour back in some of the cooking liquid, until the pork is moist and juicy.
Serve with yummy buns/bread, coleslaw, and whole grain mustard. (YUM.)
*Note: While the recipe does not start with much liquid, you’ll find the end result to be very moist. As the pork cooks down, it simmers in its own fat and juices. I found there was almost too much liquid, hence why I removed the pork from the liquid and then poured back in the desired amount of liquid. This ensures that you don’t end up with soupy pulled pork sandwiches!