Tips for the Perfect Pulled Pork

Time to say goodbye to those savory slow cooked roasts and hello to everyone’s summertime favorite, pulled pork sandwiches. Lucky for you Kettle Club members that receive pork shoulders in your shares, you’re equipped to make everyone’s summer a little more delicious.

Check out our simple tips for perfect pulled pork that will have your BBQ guests putting in special requests for every summer come.

Season that Shoulder!

Don’t be so tense! It’s only dinner. Nothing helps loosen those muscles quite like a massage. Your pork shoulder agrees! A spicy rub down with a salt-based seasoning can help tenderize your shoulder while adding some delicious flavor. Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride ions that denature or unwind the proteins of highly worked muscles. These altered proteins can then retain more water, keeping the meat moist during the cooking process.  Check out one of our favorite BBQ rubs, perfect for a smoked pork shoulder.

Fat side up

Let gravity do its thing! Whether your smoking, braising or slow cooking, the fatty cap of the shoulder will add incredible flavor and tenderness to your finished product. Set your shoulder fat side up and let the flavor rain down!

Use your trusty tools!

Dare we say it again? Okay, we will, use your thermometer! Whatever your cooking method, 225 degrees is a solid sweet spot for cooking low and slow. We recommend checking your shoulder often until it reaches 180-185 degrees. This is the temperature in which the fat will begin to render adding flavor and tenderness. For a 2 lb. roast, this will take around 4-5 hours depending on your cooking method.

Let it rest

Resist the urge to jump right into that amazingly cooked roast. Give the shoulder 20 minutes to lock in the juices and flavors. You won’t be sorry!

Get your hands dirty

Okay, so maybe for your guest’s sake, use gloves. But, under no circumstances should you begin cutting up that beautiful roast you just worked so hard on! Use your hands to gently pull the meat apart and separate through any connective tissue. Every bit of your sandwich should melt in your mouth.

Easy on the sauce!

Don’t get us wrong, we love our BBQ sauce, but we love the taste of heritage pork even more! Getting too heavy handed on the sauce can hide the delicious flavor of the pork and your yummy spice rub. Let eaters choose how saucy they get with it.

Underrated Cuts We Love!

Let’s hear it for the underdogs! Those beautiful little hidden meat gems that are often passed over for a thick cut beef ribeye or pork tenderloin.  Check out our favorite underrated cuts!

Beef Cheeks

Talk about a well worked muscle! Cows can chew up to 7,000 times per day! This means a ton of flavor for those cheek muscles. For best results, chargrill or cook direct for up to 40 minutes with constant movement. Try this as a substitute protein for beef tacos!

 

The Chuck Eye

Often called the “poor man’s ribeye” the chuck eye steak is located at the rear of the steer’s shoulder just in front of the ribeye primal. Because of its close proximity to the ribeye, it shares many qualities and characteristics. It’s tender and flavorful just like it’s close relative, but petite in comparison. A perfect meal for one!

 

 

Pork Brisket

Not quite as popular as the beef brisket, this cut is just as tender and flavorful. It responds well to a slow and low environment on the grill or a perfect fit for your smoker.

 

 

Pork Skirt Steak

Cut from the inside of the spare ribs, this cut is extremely versatile. Give it a nice soak in your favorite marinade and a hot, fast ride on the grill. Serve over rice and veggies or top a fresh salad.

Featured Cut: Beef Cheeks

We have a fantastic cut lined up of those of you that receive regular steaks in your Kettle Club share, grass-fed beef cheeks! Not only are they healthier than many traditional and familiar beef cuts, cheeks pack a ton of flavor! Let’s take a deeper look at what makes this cut so versatile and delicious.

The Chew about Cheeks

Cows love to chew! Unlike other mammals, cows have the unique ability to digest cellulose, or plant fibers such as those found in grass. Structurally, these fibers are super strong, and take a bit of work to unlock their viable nutrients. Cows accomplish this quite well with the use of two important body parts. The rumen, a compartment of their stomach that acts as a fermentation vat to break down strong plant fibers, and their mouths. Ever notice that when you see a cow it’s chewing? Cows chew a bit harder than other animals because food needs to be chewed twice before entering the fermentation vat of the rumen. This helps break down the fiber and unlock nutrients faster. Cows spend nearly eight hours every day chewing their food. This can total upwards of 40,000 jaw movements per day!!!

What’s this mean for cheek muscles? They’re super strong! The continuous chewing movement means more blood flow to the area and toned muscles that result in an enormous amount of flavor for the cut!

 

They’re Healthy!

It’s almost swimsuit weather! And we’re all looking to cut a few calories we might have gained over this long winter. Substituting beef cheeks for more traditional cuts can help! Beef cheeks are lower in fat and calories, and higher in protein when compared to most roasts and popular steaks. Cheeks also have more immune-supporting vitamin C and vitamin B and more than 200% more iron! Check out the nutritional comparison below:

Beef roast: (100 g)

  • Calories: 244
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Protein: 19 g

 

SWAP FOR

Beef cheeks: (100 g)

  • Calories: 145
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Protein: 25 g

 

How to I cook them?

Unlike other muscles that don’t get as much of a workout like tenderloin and shoulder (chuck), these cuts need proper preparation to break down strong muscle fibers for fall-off-the fork tenderness. We recommended braising, or cooking with a mixture of both quick, high, heat and low, slow heat. Check out this recipe for Braised Beef Cheek Tacos!  A fantastically fresh and healthy meal for spring!

Heritage Breeds: What’s in a Name?

Our patrons often ask us about the breeds of swine we source for our delicious pork products. The simple answer, heritage breeds. But what are heritage breeds, and why are they important for genetic preservation of the swine species?

What is a Heritage Breed?

While there is currently no set definition for the phrase, heritage livestock breeds are the breeds that flourished in the agrarian societies of our ancestors. Long before the modernization of agriculture when pigs were raised primarily on pasture, it was important that these animals possessed the necessary skills needed to thrive in specific environmental conditions. Genetically speaking, we refer to these skills as traits, and keeping these traits intact ensured that our forefathers could produce a bountiful supply of meat to feed their communities.

Why are Heritage Breeds Important?

But modern agriculture has moved away from raising pigs on pasture, and hardiness, sturdiness and adaptability are no longer desirable attributes. Instead, commodity pork producers seek faster-growing animals that reach market weights in record time. The shift in genetic selection has led to an overall decrease in the swine breeds of the past. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 20% of the world’s cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are currently at risk of extinction. A consequence of this potential extinction would be the loss of unique traits that could help these animals thrive in any future, harsh conditions.

What Kinds of Breeds Do We Source at Kettle Range Meat Company?

Here at Kettle Range Meats we work to source these important heritage breeds. We source these breeds not only because they’re great tasting when compared with commodity pork, but we also want to support the farmers who work hard to keep these breeds intact for the future success of our agriculture systems. Let’s look at just a few of the breeds we serve up:

Cinta Senese

This native Tuscan hog is prized for its delicious, extremely tender, buttery flavor and intense marbling. A favorite of chefs and charcuterie makers, the cinta is extremely rare. As recently as the ’90s, the Cinta was considered to be endangered, but a few dedicated farmers, including our partner Ken Kehrli, are working hard to bring it back.

 

Red Wattle

Characterized by a fleshy wattle on either side of their neck, these breeds are best known for their rich textured and delicious hams.

 

 

 

Berkshire

This breed is sometimes referred to as kurobuta, which is Japanese for black pork due to their hair color. They are known for their savory, umami flavor.

Sausage of the Month: Traditional Polish

Our butcher staff has created up a special holiday sausage for Kettle Club members this month, Traditional Polish. Our head of production and Master Butcher Joe Parajecki shares his fondest memories of this classic holiday treat.

I come from a Polish family deep rooted in tradition—especially when it comes to holiday meals. Fresh Polish sausage, sometimes with sauerkraut, sometimes with fresh grated Horseradish, has always been a staple at our holiday table. I remember fondly my grandmother making sausages on the days that would lead up to Christmas, the smell of garlic and marjoram filling the house. The smell would linger on and we would waiting in full anticipation during on Wigila Dinner Christmas Eve (a tradition including foods that come from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard) but we would have to wait until after Midnight Mass to enjoy it.  Each year I continue this tradition with my family using the time-honored recipe passed down from my grandmother, and I share it this month with you. We’ve prepared fresh polish sausage using my grandma’s recipe for our Kettle Club members this month. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

Thanks, Joe!

Recipe: Slow Roasted Holiday Brisket

INGREDIENTS

2 pound Kettle Club Brisket

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch lengths

1 large onion, cut into quarters

2 ribs celery, cut into 3-inch lengths

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoons brown mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

4 ounces peeled, finely grated horseradish root

1 quarts beef bone broth

1 bay leave

3 sprigs thyme

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Grab an ovenproof braising pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Season the brisket liberally with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan. Add the brisket and brown it on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan or pot if needed, then add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat evenly.
  4. Combine the honey, mustard, vinegar and horseradish in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Add it to vegetable mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes stirring often dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pan or pot.
  5. Return the brisket to the braising pan or pot (still over medium-high heat). Add enough broth to cover the brisket, then add the bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Once the liquid starts to bubble at the edges, cover and transfer to the oven.
  6. Slow-roast until the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees F (about 2 1/2 hours)
  7. Let rest for 10-15 minutes and slice against the grain when serving.

Tip: The pan drippings make an excellent gravy for serving your slow-roasted brisket!

Featured Cut: Grass-fed Beef Brisket

The Thanksgiving table is a glorious show with the turkey holding the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get a little help from a supporting cast. Get a standing (or reclining) ovation from friends and family this year by adding a tender, slow-roasted brisket to the table.

Our butchers are handcrafting some amazing beef briskets for Kettle Club shares that include beef roasts this month. Before we get into recipes, let’s learn a little more about this diverse beef cut.

What is a brisket?

If we had to say steers had a glamour muscle, the brisket would be it! The brisket comes from the lower chest, or pectoral muscles of the steer and bears about 60% of the animal’s weight as it moves across pasture. Steers use their pectoral muscles at every step. Leaning down to get a bite of nutritious grass, laying down to get some rest, even reaching back with their heads to keep off summer flies. The pecs are always getting toned, which results in a flavorful cut of meat.

Remember back in August when we talked about what makes beef cuts flavorful? Of course you do, but let’s recap. Weight bearing muscles are constantly being toned which means there is more connective tissue and blood flow to the area. This results in the presence of Umami, or protein flavor. What’s important to remember about these delicious cuts is that they need more cook time to break down strong muscle fibers. Let’s talk about some tips for cooking and serving brisket.

 

Relax those muscles with a soak or spicy massage

Wet brine, dry brine, the winner is still up for debate among BBQ enthusiasts. What we do know for certain is that salt applied in any manner prior to cooking helps tenderize flavorful cuts like brisket. Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride ions that denature or unwind the proteins of highly worked muscles. These altered proteins can then retain more water, keeping the meat moist during the cooking process.  If you’re using a dry rub, make sure you’re coating every inch and getting that salt in all the nooks and crannies. For wet brines, ensure you allow at least 12 hours of relaxing soak time.

 

Slow and steady wins the race

Whether you’re oven roasting, smoking or using the crock pot, cuts like briskets need proper time and temperature to reach their full potential. You’ve heard us say it before and we’ll say it again, LOW AND SLOW! This allows connective tissue to break down slowly and results in a buttery, tender roast. A good rule of thumb is about 45-50 minutes per lb. when cooking at 250 degrees. Don’t forget to check it with your trusty meat thermometer regularly! An internal temperature of 165-170 degrees F is recommended for a slow roasted brisket.

 

If you want the best, let it rest!

Rest your cooked brisket for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing carefully against the grain. This allows for the juices from the fat to sink in and provides a tender finishing texture.

Recipe: Slow-Roasted Honey Glazed Pork

INGREDIENTS
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped scallions
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 bunch asparagus, halved
6 Yukon potatoes, diced
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup honey

PREPARATION

In a large bowl, combine one cup of the soy sauce with the sugar, garlic, and scallions, stirring until mixed.

Place the pork in the marinade and toss to coat evenly. Marinate for one hour.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, and remaining soy sauce, stirring until smooth.

Place the pork and chopped vegetables in the slow cooker and spoon the honey glaze over the top of the, making sure to fill the cracks and crevices on top.

Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours. Once the pork is cooked through and tender, remove the vegetables and pork from the tray, making sure to save all the juices.

Slice the pork into ½-inch slices, and plate with the roasted vegetables. Spoon the reserved pan juices on top of the pork, and enjoy!

September Featured Cut: Top Round London Broil

For those of you who receive regular steaks in your Kettle Club share, we’ve prepared a mouthwatering spin on a timeless dish, London Broil.

Origins

Despite its name, the dish isn’t English at all. In fact, it originated right here in North America and is said to have popularized in Philadelphia around 1931. The name actually refers to the method of preparation and not the cut of meat itself.

The original method of preparing London Broil used flank steak, pan seared medium rare and cut across the grain to be served. Today’s London Broil is typically marinated and prepared from a variety of cuts including top round, sirloin tip and chuck steak.

Cooking Tips

Your Kettle Club London Broil comes from top round and arrives pre-marinated in Joe’s famous Black Diamond marinade that includes soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and a variety of other seasonings.

To enjoy the traditional dish, preheat the grill or broiler and place the meat on a rack 5 inches from the heat source. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side to achieve a perfect medium rare temperature. Remove the meat from the heat and place on a cutting board to rest for 2 minutes. Slice the meat thinly remembering to cut against the grain to loosen any tight tendons that might cause the meat to be a bit chewy. Enjoy!

Recipe: Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Thyme Cherries

Return from Door County with a bounty of cherries? Try this pork chop recipe topped with a balsamic thyme cherry sauce.

Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Thyme Cherries

Ingredients:

Pork Chops

1 clove minced garlic

Salt and pepper to season

 

For the Balsamic Thyme Cherries:

2 cups fresh pitted cherries, quartered

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to season

1 clove very finely minced garlic

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 or 2 Tbs. honey

Instructions:

  1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and rub the outside of the chops with the minced garlic.
  2. Grill the chops until fully cooked. A meat thermometer should read 160 degrees F when testing the chops at the center.
  3. Simmer the balsamic vinegar over medium heat until it is reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  4. Set aside to cool or immerse bottom of the pan in cold water to cool down the reduction. Toss in the other ingredients and allow to stand for about an hour or more before serving over the grilled pork chops.