Over the holidays I tried and loved Crispin Hard Cider for the first time. After reading my unsolicited review and learning of my disappointment that it is not distributed in New England (yet) they kindly sent me some samples. For those who may have missed my previous review, Crispin makes super-premium natural hard cider. It sounds like a bunch of marketing hyperbole, but I’ve drank a lot of hard cider and Crispin was definitely in line with my favorites. A lot of American cider is too sweet and quite one note, but Crispin is the exact opposite, well balanced and nuanced.
As much fun as it would have been to drink my way through my new cider stash I decided it would be even more fun to use it in inventive ways in my kitchen. A hard cider based BBQ sauce was the first thing that came to mind. I got the inspiration because during my 2008 trip to Northern California I visited Ace Cider Pub. Their menu included ribs lacquered with a cider-laced BBQ sauce. I didn’t get to try it because the grill was down for the day, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
With this memory in mind I set out to create my Pulled Pork with Honey-Cider BBQ sauce. The honey and cider are natural partners for the pork and yield a delicious savory-sweet result. In this recipe, pork shoulder gets a generous rub of powdered honey, smoked paprika, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, dry mustard, and chipotle chile powder. It slow roasts in the oven and eventually gets bathed in the sweet BBQ sauce, nuanced with its apple and honey flavor. It’s sure to be a hit with anyone who likes their BBQ a little bit sweet. It’s great on its own with a crisp cucumber salad on the side. I also enjoyed leftovers on a homemade pizza I topped with the pork, taleggio cheese, chopped bell peppers, and scallions.
This recipe calls for powdered honey, which is also called granulated honey. I’ve found it at my local Asian grocery store, but can also find it online from Marx Foods here.
-1 tablespoon powdered honey
-1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
-1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
-1 (2-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 1/2 cups diced red onion
-2 tablespoons sliced garlic
-1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
-3/4 cup powdered honey
-1 (12-ounce) bottle hard cider
-2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
-3 tablespoons tomato paste
-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
-2 teaspoons dried mustard
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
-1 bunch fresh sage, bound together with kitchen twine
To prepare pork, combine powdered honey through chipotle chile powder in a small bowl. Rub sugar mixture evenly over pork. Let pork stand at room temperature 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 225°. Place pork on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Place rack in pan. Bake at 225° for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the BBQ sauce. Set a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the red onion and garlic and saute until the onions are lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vinegar and powdered honey to the pan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the vinegar is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Add the hard cider and reduce by half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the sage, and puree using an immersion blender. Measure out 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce for basting, setting the rest aside.
Bake an additional 3 hours, basting every hour with BBQ Sauce.
Pour remaining 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Cover pork and pan tightly with foil. Bake an additional 2-3 hours or until a thermometer registers 190°. Remove from oven; let stand, covered, 45 minutes.
Shred pork with 2 forks. Serve with sauce.