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Pulled Pork with Peppered Vinegar Sauce
“To keep sodium in check we've left salt out of the rub in this healthy pulled pork recipe. The vinegary sauce infuses salty goodness throughout the pulled pork rather than just on the surface of the meat. If you have both a charcoal and a gas grill, choose charcoal as it will produce a more authentic smoke flavor. The pork is served here North Carolina–style: with peppered vinegar sauce and slaw.”
5-6 pounds bone-in Boston butt (see Tips)
2 tablespoons ground pepper
12 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split
Pickle slices for serving
Peppered Vinegar Sauce
1¼ cups cider vinegar
¾ cup water
½ jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
1½ tablespoons packed light brown sugar, or to taste
1½ tablespoons ketchup
1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
2½ teaspoons fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
5 cups finely shredded or chopped green cabbage (from 1 small head)
1 tablespoon sugar
1Soak 8 cups hardwood chips, such as hickory, in a large bowl of water for 30 minutes.
2Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling (see Tips) with a drip pan directly below where the pork will be cooked. Build a medium-hot fire.
3Drain the wood chips. Add ¾ cup of them to each mound of coals.
4Season pork on all sides with pepper. Place, fat-side up, in the center of the grill over the drip pan. Close the lid and adjust the vents to keep a steady temperature of 325 to 350°F. Smoke-roast the pork, checking and adding a few small handfuls of wood chips every 20 to 30 minutes, until sizzling, dark and crusty on the outside. It should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer; this will take 4 to 5 hours total, depending on the size. (The pork won't "pull" properly unless it's cooked to this degree of doneness.) If the exterior of the pork starts to burn, loosely tent it with foil.
5Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, jalapeño, brown sugar, ketchup, crushed red pepper, salt and ground pepper in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Adjust seasoning, if desired, with more sugar—the sauce should be piquant but not quite sour.
6Combine ¾ cup of the vinegar sauce with cabbage and sugar in a large bowl; let stand, stirring a few times, for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate until ready to serve.
7When the pork is done, transfer to a large clean work surface. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone in large chunks. Discard the bone and any big lumps of fat. Shred or coarsely chop the meat. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining vinegar sauce.
8Serve the pork on buns, topped with the vinegar slaw and pickles, if desired.
To make ahead: Refrigerate vinegar sauce (Step 5) for up to 3 days. Refrigerate slaw (Step 6) for up to 1 day.
Equipment: Hickory or other hardwood chips, charcoal grill, drip pan
Tips: Boston butt (or “Boston-style butt,” “fresh pork butt” or “pork shoulder”) can weigh upwards of 10 pounds, so you may have to ask your butcher to cut one down for this recipe.
To prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling: Light coals and let them burn down until they're glowing red; push the hot coals to either side of the grill, leaving a cool spot over which to set the food.