I suppose this will be my final post for 2012. So I'd better make it a good one.
*crickets, galloping endlessly on spinning tumbleweeds as though they are hamsters in a wheel, whilst making their cricket noise that signifies on reality television that someone has nothing of consequence to say*
I actually do have plenty to say, I just really like imagining crickets traveling across the land by scooting inside rolling tumbleweeds, conveying concentrated nothingness.
So here's what I have to say: I started my new job last week, only to find myself on holiday all of a sudden. To Tim's and my endless relief, I got paid for the small quantity of hours I managed to get under my belt before the year ended. And piling further relief on top of that, the Christmas Pulled Pork recipe that I'd had rolling around my brain since about June was made today, and worked. Because...Tim did some noodling around with our incoming and outgoing funds over the next few weeks and it would've been way painful had this experiment not worked out. I like to think I have something of a knack for inventing recipes that work the first time (I mean I wrote a damn cookbook) but I did have a play with this a few months ago and it really didn't turn out well. So I was wary. Nervous. Apprehensive. And other such synonyms.
Check that out though. That's no failure. It is being photographed on the floor (floorpork!), but we've only got one tiny table that friends have donated to us and it became immediately covered in stuff, the kind of stuff that you just don't know where to put, and I really couldn't be bothered clearing any of it. Also the wooden floor against the brick wall kinda aesthetically appealed, and this is, after all, a food blog.
I know pulled pork isn't necessarily what springs to mind for a traditional Christmas meal - in fact it's probably pretty far down the food chain after turkeys and chickens and so on and so forth. However. I have endeavoured to imbue this tender, shredded pork with so much Decemberific flavour that you can't help but wonder why we ever even bother with turkey in the first place. So - why not just make it this year?
Firstly, it's SO DELICIOUS and that argument alone should have some significant weight. Secondly, it involves very little effort. It does admittedly take over the oven for a long time, and needs a low temperature, but you really hardly have to do anything to it. Thirdly, wow your guests with your unapologetic, tradition-flouting now-ness! For what it's worth. Fourthly: vegetarians aside, I've never met anyone who isn't tearfully, seraphically happy while eating pulled pork. Fifthly: In case you were concerned about the oven being occupied for so long, just make a coleslaw (out of red and green cabbage if you like, for seasonal tonality) and provide a pile of soft, fresh bread rolls, plus an array of condiments - mustard, mayonaise, etc - and you have yourself one hellish heck of a festive meal.
If Christmas isn't part of your life, you could of course change the title and just call it like, Cranberry Cinnamon Pulled Pork (which somehow sounds even christmassier? Sorry.)
Christmas Pulled Pork
A recipe by myself.
2kg (or thereabouts - depending on how many you're serving, and you'll want leftovers) of belly-cut pork shoulder, or just plain pork shoulder. I used belly-cut here. Because it's what I could find.
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 or 4 cloves - or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup strong, black coffee
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or similar orange liqueur, or the zest and juice of an orange)
2 tablespoons tomato-based chutney, or tomato paste
A handful of dried cranberries
Turn your oven to 140 C (280-ish Fahrenheit) and place the slab o' pork in an oven dish. I have this theory that ceramic or glass ones are good for slow cooking as they don't conduct heat so well as say, metal or enamel. But really, just an oven dish of some description is what you want.
Mix together the spices, sugar and salt in a small bowl and spoon nearly all of it over the cut side of the pork. Then turn this over and rub the remaining into the fat. Cook it, fat side up, for four hours.
Mix together the coffee, Cointreau, and chutney. Tip this into the roasting dish once the four hours are up, sprinkle over the cranberries, and cover the dish tightly with tinfoil. Reduce the heat to 130 C, and cook it for another half hour or so.
Once this time is up, remove the tinfoil and carefully shred the pork to pieces - including the crackling, although discard some of it if it makes you feel squicky - I use a fork and a pair of tongs. Stir it through all the sauce and fattened cranberries, and then serve, with masses of pride.
I know the mix of coffee, orange liqueur, and tomato chutney sounds all kinds of odious, but please, trust me. The coffee just mellows and melts into the background, providing dark depth of flavour and a kind of general punchy undertone to the rich pork, without tasting like you've inadvertently dropped ham into your flat white. Both orange and tomato work oddly well with said coffee, while pointing up the pork's sweetness and bringing strident Christmas flavour to echo that of the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The coffee needn't be anything flash, as long as it's strong and black - even just some instant granules stirred into water will be fine. The dried cranberries are there because sometimes restriction causes solutions - I wanted to include cranberry juice in the liquid, but was wary of adding too much sugar - which could burn - and also of the fact that I would then have to go out and spend money on said juice. I then found dried cranberries in the back of my wardrobe (as you do) while we moved house, and thought they'd be even better - they become swollen with the meaty juices in the oven, and then provide bursts of sour-sweetness once dispersed through the torn apart pork. And they make it look a bit more twinkly and festive.
So whether or not I've convinced you to do it, I believe I will be making this on Christmas day for my family.
Our tree keeps on tree-ing!
Christmas is, of course, a time for thinking about consumer items you'd really like. Trinkets that I have my heart set upon this year (and don't take this to heart Santa, this is more like stuff I'll buy myself once my earnings buffer up my bank account again) include Pinky Fang's teeth barrette (just the word barrette fills me with Claudia Kishi thrills); Nigella Lawson's new book (I don't even care if it's good or not, I just love her so much); Devon Anna Smith's witchy Kittens and Oak print (obsessed); a really good thesaurus (I'd like to become even more wordy!); the dvd of Sondheim's Company (impossibly thrilling) some new pots and pans that are both photogenic but also really, really good (realised during the move that I have hardly any, and what I have is rubbish); a pet cat and a fleet of Alsatian dogs. Nothing less than a fleet will do. What about you? What's making you drop heavy hints around the nearest gift-giver in your life these days?
And of course, it's a time for being around as many people as you love as possible. Well, that's what they say in the Hallmark cards. I am truly looking forward to seeing my family again, to listening to our old tapes and CDs that are wheeled out every year (favourites: the Tin Lids "Hey Rudolph" tape and this jazzy, blatty, high-sheen Disney CD), to hanging out with the indifferent cats, and to making this pulled pork for everyone and seeing what happens. Since it's high summer, it'll likely be grey and insufferably humid - I can't wait.
(PS: not to make it all about me, except actually to make it all about me since I have this weird - endearing? - tendency to do that anyway, I do believe this strawberry ice cream cake would make the perfect pudding to follow this up.)
See you, yes you, in 2013! Fa la la la la!
Title via: The so important Wanda Woodward in the John Waters movie Cry-baby. Inexplicably, I could not find a screencap or gif of her saying this, but just know that she is the most. To say the least. The very least.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Christine Ebersole. Voice like crystal, and fulfills my need for Broadway stars singing seasonal songs.
Jessie Ware, Wildest Moments. This song is just so swoonful, o! how I wish I was seeing her at Laneway next year.
And one for luck: Johnny Cash and Neil Young, The Little Drummer Boy. A little strange, a lot wonderful. Their voices are like photo negatives of each other.
Next time: It'll be 2013! I look forward to blogging all often-like and stuff. And till then, I wish you all a Sensible Night, Appropriate Night. Function with relative ease!