Stay with me – I have a few things to tell you about, and it all leads to a pulled pork sandwich.
Several weeks ago, I splurged on a little morning ‘me’ time. I attended a fundraiser for REAP‘s Farm to School Program. REAP (Research, Education, Action and Policy on Food Group) is a local non-profit that seeks to create a regional food system that is healthful, just, and environmentally and economically sustainable. They have some amazing programs and events, and one of my favorite programs is the Farm to School initiative, which aims to introduce children to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food.
They had a great event at a local southwestern restaurant, Eldorado Grill. It was a delicious five-course menu, and Rick Bayless of PBS and Chicago restaurant fame attended. You can read more about the delicious meal I enjoyed here.
The event started out a little sadly – I didn’t get to chat up Rick Bayless, and for awhile, it looked like I was going to have to sit at a table BY MYSELF. Yes, a 9-month pregnant woman, drinking Mexican mocktails and enjoying a five-course brunch at a table alone is something to pity. However, at the last minute I was saved with two fabulous guests at my table.
I was joined by the proprietors of Willow Creek Farm, Tony and Sue Renger. They were kind and talkative, happily told me all about their fascinating operation, and patiently answered all of my questions. What an education! Did you know that its all about vertical integration? And did you know that successful farmers lead quite the glamorous life? Despite working REALLY hard, they get invited to some pretty swanky places, including Slow Food events in Italy, and James Beard Awards Dinners in New York City (when our own Tory Miller from L’Etoile was invited to cook, he brought along his favorite pork producers.)
The Rengers raise pasture-grazed Berkshire pork for some of the fanciest restaurants in Madison. Luckily, everyone else can enjoy their products either by purchasing directly from them (consider getting a quarter hog) at their farm or at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. Or you can find their meat at the Willy Street Coop.
Not only do they raise some gorgeous and delicious hogs (their pork shoulder was a main course at the fundraiser), but they also have their own processing plant, AND make custom smokers (this is the vertical integration I was talking about). They are busy folks, but some of the nicest people I’ve had lunch with in awhile. I encourage you to check out their web site, and seek out some of their delicious meat. They have some great recipes on their site, including Odessa Piper’s pork chops (original chef at L’Etoile.)
And here is a dead simple recipe to make use of one of the most delicious and easy to prepare cuts of pork, the shoulder. Pulled pork takes almost no hands on time, and just a few hours cooking low and slow to produce a tender and flavorful sandwich that would impress any meat-lover.
3 T brown sugar
2 T sweet paprika
1 T dry mustard
1 T kosher salt
2 tsp oregano
liberal sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
3-5 lbs pork shoulder
1) Mix spices, and rub into pork shoulder. Let sit a few hours, or preferably overnight. I rub it and put it in the slow cooker container, and put that in the fridge until I’m ready to cook.
2) Cook shoulder in slow cooker on low heat, 5-8 hours, until meat is very tender and falls apart easily.
3) Remove meat from slow cooker, and shred with two forks.
4) Serve on rolls with favorite barbecue sauce, oven-baked fries, some slaw, and a beer or root beer on the side. Perfection.