I have about a pint of powdered dried tomato skins, a by-product of canning tomatoes this summer. I know some people thought I was nuts for saving, drying, and grinding the skins you have to peel off the tomatoes for salsa, sauce, and canned tomatoes. But I have learned that these dried tomato skins pack quite a flavor punch. I’ve been using them in chip dips, soups, and sauces. Now, I’ve added them to a homemade pork rub which produced beautifully-seasoned pulled pork cooked in the crock pot. Of course, the rub is still very good without the tomato skins. Why wouldn’t it be with all that wonderful spice!
Pork Rub (with Dried Tomato Skins)
1 tablespoon dried tomato skin powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher or coarsely-ground sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (see note below)
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika (see note below)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Mix well and rub on dry meat. This rub would be good on spare ribs or chicken, as well as the pulled pork recipe below.
Easy Pulled Pork
4-5 lb. pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, or pork loin roast (see note below)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
a few drops of liquid smoke (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
Rub all sides of pork with seasoning mix (above). At this point, you can rest the pork in the fridge for up to 12 hours to get the most flavor out of the rub. Or, you can start cooking it right away in the crock pot. Because this big hunk of meat takes so long to cook in the crock pot (8-12 hours), the rub gets into the meat nicely during cooking. When you are ready to cook your pork, proceed as follows.
Place onion and garlic in bottom of large crock pot, pour in chicken stock, add a few drops of liquid smoke if desired (be cautious, it’s strong) and place rubbed pork on top. Cover and cook on high for about 8 hours; on low it may take up to 12 hours. Cook until the meat is falling off the bone or shreds easily with a fork . Remove meat from crock pot. Rest, covered loosely with foil, until steam is no longer rising from meat. While meat is resting, make sauce.
Pour the liquid, onions, and garlic from the crock pot into a medium-sized sauce pan. Add 1 cup of ketchup or 1 ½-2 cups of tomato sauce, 1/3 cup of molasses or 1/4 cup of brown sugar (adjust sweetness to your taste), 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat to produce medium boil and reduce sauce until it reaches desired consistency, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. It should thicken to a gravy-like consistency but not be too thick to pour.
Pull rested meat into shreds with two forks. Pour sauce over meat or serve sauce on the side.
Notes: I have listed cayenne pepper here, but of course, if you are heat-sensitive, you can omit it or use less. I actually didn’t use cayenne. I used a hot pepper mix that Theresa, my son-in-law’s mother, gave me. She buys two varieties of very hot peppers in the market in Kaduna, Nigeria, boils them, dries them in the sun, and grinds them to powder. She gave me a half-pint of this stuff, and I love it. It is very hot, hotter than cayenne, but very flavorful. I intend to try her technique with my habaneros I’ve been ripening on the cut bush in the laundry room.
Also, I listed hot smoked paprika, which I just discovered in bulk at the WinCo store in Reno. I’ve heard about it for years, but it isn’t easy to find, and it normally isn’t cheap. It’s quite affordable at WinCo. I love the flavor it gives, but you could easily substitute plain paprika and add just a drop more of liquid smoke, if you wish.
You can make pulled pork with boneless pork tenderloin or loin roasts, but the best cut of pork for this dish is a pork shoulder roast (also known as butt). Bone-in is best because the meat has more flavor when cooked on the bone. The long, slow cooking time tenderizes this tougher cut of meat and allows the fat to cook all the way out, producing a tender, flavorful, and juicy dish. This dish can also be cooked in a large Dutch oven or turkey roaster with a tight-fitting lid. Bake at 325 degrees until meat is tender and pulls apart with a fork. It will take slightly less cooking time in the oven, so keep checking for desired tenderness.
The rub mix gets into the liquid in the crock pot as the meat cooks, so there is no need to add more salt or pepper to the sauce when you use the cooking liquid as the base of your sauce, unless you are a salt fiend. This produces a medium-hot barbecue sauce.
We enjoyed this dish so much the other night, I’m planning to cook it again on New Year’s Eve for the family get-together. I normally take pictures of the finished food, but after smelling this pork cooking all day, we just couldn’t wait to dive into it. I served the pulled pork and sauce with sourdough rolls, baked beans, and coleslaw, but on this New Year’s Eve, we are having a feast of Nigerian food, prepared by my son-in-law, Solomon, and his mother, Theresa, with help from Amy and me. I think the pork will go well with the Nigerian dishes, and hopefully, I’ll have some Nigerian recipes to share with you all at a later date. Happy New Year, everybody.