Well hello there. I’m the pool of liquid on the sofa in Shane and Shan’s Beijing apartment trying my best to reconstitute myself into human form. I am back in China for a second time in as many months and it is hot, hot, hot. Summer has arrived with a vengeance. The temperature rises from 28 degrees C at 6 am to a humid high of 36C in the early afternoon and then slowly drops again overnight. Even now at 11 pm on a Saturday night it has barely slipped down to 32C and the timid air-conditioning in this 21st floor apartment is making little impact. I am nearly as well cooked as the slow-cooked pulled pork in the recipe below.
It is my fifth visit to Beijing in less than two years and I am reminded how definite the seasons are here – the cold, sharp winter followed by a short Spring, a long stifling summer and a short autumn. The locals adapt. “Beijing air-conditioning” is the preferred attire of the menfolk with their t-shirts rolled up to allow any breeze to cool their bellies. The women carry home enormous water melons tied up with string to eat in wedges or press into juice. The streets in this residential area are teeming with people and makeshift stalls have sprung up all over the place selling juices and yoghurt drinks. Girls in pretty short dresses carry floral umbrellas to ward off the sun’s rays. The skies are uncharacteristically clear of smog and a soft wind rustles the trees providing limited shade on the uneven sidewalks. In the evenings groups of every age gather in any open space they can find to perform exercises to music.
My visit this time is part business, part family reunion and it comes with the unparalleled pleasure of knowing my grandson Dermot is sleeping soundly in the next room. In the six weeks since I last saw him he has changed again from toddler to small boy. He has the same impish sense of humour but it now comes with a patter of conversation in Chinese and I’m struggling hard to learn new words as fast as he does. By our next reunion he will have will have long passed me out and he already understands what is said to him in Chinese and English.
I will fill you in on some of my dining experiences on this trip over the next few blog posts but first I owe it to my loyal followers to post the recipe for barbecued pulled pork which I have been working on for the last while.
When I started the blog in the Summer of 2012, my first original recipe was for Sichuan Seafood Duncannon Style, named for the little fishing village in the south east of Ireland where I like to spend my weekends. The recipe was subsequently included in Goodall’s A Modern Irish Cookbook, which was recently awarded “Best in the World” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This is a book of recipes from Ireland’s thriving food blogging community and represents what Irish home cooking looks like today in all its diversity. All the profits are donated to Cork Penny Dinners and Crosscare charities and it can still be downloaded from www.goodalls.ie for €2.99.
Anyway the excitement about the award reminded me that it was about time that I came up with a new recipe. I wanted to create one that would use the best of Irish ingredients, have at least a hint of Chinese flavours, be influenced in some way by Duncannon and be capable of being cooked on the Big Green Egg as, after all, that’s where I do most of my BBQ cooking. Cue Twitter to the rescue. My friend Sinead @BumblesofRice happened to mention the fabulous pulled pork she had tasted at Roches Bar in Duncannon during our #Funcannon June bank holiday weekend.
A tweet to Cindy @RochesBar was all it took to get hold of the recipe their chef Craig Power had used. He has recently returned from England to his family home in nearby village of Slade and he cooks his pork shoulder in the oven for 12 hours at low temperature using a five spice rub and Stonewell Craft Cider. Like all good chefs he doesn’t use measurements so the recipe below is my own interpretation of his basic idea adapted for the barbecue. Along the way I consulted other Twitter friends and BBQ experts – @bbq_joes and @RoomOutside – and of course I can never fire up the Egg without reading every relevant recipe from @AdamPerryLang – my favourite BBQ guru.
This day last week, Summer Solistice -夏至 or xia zhi in China- was the perfect day to try it out. It was a glorious day in Ireland and one that made me dream forward to when Dermot comes to live in Ireland and can roam free in the clear, fresh air of an Irish summer in our Duncannon garden.
So with thanks to my Twitter friends for the inspiration, here goes. This could be cooked on any covered BBQ using indirect heat. Just allow yourself plenty of marinading and cooking time, starting with rubbing the pork the night before and getting your BBQ on early the next morning for an evening dinner. It needs very little minding but including the time it takes to light the BBQ and rest the pork it takes about 11 hours. Believe me, it’s worth the wait, it tastes delicious.
Shananigans Duncannon Pulled Pork
- 1 bone in whole pork shoulder, fat scored
- 2 bottles Stonewell Craft Cider or any dry cider
- 4 star anise
- 1 cup apple juice
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbs light brown sugar
- 1 tbs salt
- Dash of soy sauce
- 3 tbs soft brown sugar
- 3 tbs Chinese five spice powder
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
Cider Mop Spray
- ½ cup apple juice – I used Crinnaghtaun but any tart apple juice will work
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbs cider vinegar
- 6 tbs honey
- 2 tbs apple juice
- Hoisin sauce – any good quality bottled sauce or make your own from the recipe in the post for Big Green Egg Peking Style Roast Duck
- Hoisin sauce
- Homemade apple sauce – simply peel and chop a large cooking apple, add a tablespoon of water and sugar to taste. Simmer gently in a saucepan or cook for 5 minutes in a covered bowl in a microwave until softened. Stir before serving and adjust sweetness to taste.
- Chinese pancakes (the type used for wrapping Peking Duck which you will find in the freezer section of your local Asian market)
For the BBQ
- Oak lump wood
- Apple wood chips (optional)
The night before
- Combine the rub ingredients and mix well.
- Pierce the pork fat all over at about 3 cm intervals by inserting a small blade deep into the flesh and twisting aggressively to create small holes.
- If using the injection, mix the injection ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and inject the mix deep into the pork butt with an injection needle.
- Season the pork all over with the rub and massage it into the holes, reserving any leftover rub for later use.
- Let it stand in the fridge overnight, on a plate or in a covered bowl, to absorb the flavours.
Prepare the Big Green Egg
- Remove the pork from fridge and allow to come to room temperature while the Big Green Egg is heating up. Sprinkle with the remaining rub.
- Prepare your grill for indirect cooking using oak lumpwood and heat to 130 degrees c. Soak some apple wood chips if you have them and drain them and add to the Big Green Egg when it has come to temperature. Insert the plate setter with legs up and place a drip pan under the grill rack. Add a bottle of cider and the star anise to the drip pan.
- Place the pork butt, fat side up on the grill. Mix the ingredients for the cider mop spray and place in a spray bottle. After about 3 hours, when a nice crust has formed on the pork, spritz the pork with the spray. Spritz it at hourly intervals thereafter. Cook for about 6 hours before wrapping in foil.
Six hours later
- After 6 hours get two large sheets of foil and place them on top of one another. Remove the pork from the grill and place it on top of the foil. Combine the honey and apple juice for the wrap mix. Drizzle the wrap mix over the pork. Wrap up the pork to make a sealed parcel. Return it to the grill and cook for 2 hours or more until an instant read thermometer reads 88 degrees C.
- Remove the pork from the grill. Wrap the foil package in heavy towels and rest for at least one hour.
- Carefully unwrap the pork, reserving the honey and apple juices. Spritz with the apple spray. Drizzle the reserved juices and some hoisin sauce over the pork and return it to the grill for up to 30 minutes to tighten and carmelise the glaze
- Serve the whole shoulder of pork on a platter. Pull the melting, tender pork apart into shreds and chunks with two forks or “Bear Claws”. Serve with apple sauce, hoisin sauce and pancakes on the side and allow your guests to help themselves by spreading some of the sauces on each pancake and wrapping them around the pork shreds.