Every fall I throw a harvest party. I do it to celebrate the end of summer gatherings, and the beginning of a quiet period in our home.
We live in a small house with ill-fitting rooms and hardwood floors everywhere. It’s a cacophony of sounds when filled with too many people, so most of our entertaining takes place when we can put the outdoors to good use.
CIDER PULLED PORK: A FALL FAVORITE
The centerpiece of our harvest party is always a heaping pile of this Cider Braised Pulled Pork. I make it in the slow cooker the day before the party, let it cool in its juices, then place the slow cooker in the fridge.
The next day, I make the sauce and shred the pork. It stays warm in the slow cooker and people can eat when they’re hungry, leaving me to enjoy the day with our friends and family.
If I’m making it for a smaller dinner party instead of a crowd, I shred the pork on a cookie sheet, cover the pork with foil, and keep it warm in a low oven. Just before I’m ready to serve it, I ladle the warm sauce over the top and bring it to the table simply because I like the presentation. (I’m not typically a fan of serving food out of cooking vessels, unless it’s a more informal backyard barbecue or something to that effect.)
PULLED PORK FOR THE WEEK!
When the guests leave, I either freeze the leftovers (if there are any!) or transform them into pork chili, tacos, or pork and potato hash, to feed my family throughout the week. I hope you love it as much as we do.
- More Ideas! 6 Things to Make with Pulled Pork
THE INGREDIENTS FOR CIDER PULLED PORK
Pork shoulder and Boston butt are the same cut of meat, so pick up either for this recipe.
If you only have sweet cider (as opposed to hard cider), that’s fine; just reduce the sugar in the rub to 1 tablespoon. If you only have hard cider, that’s okay, too. Leave the sugar as it is.
If the sauce is too vinegary for your taste, add a teaspoon of sugar at time until you reach your desired flavor. If it’s too salty, add a drop or so of vinegar.
HOW TO REHEAT CIDER PULLED PORK
This recipe is intended to feed a crowd or leave you with ample leftovers. Let the pork cool, then cover and transfer the inner pot with the pulled pork to the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days.
When ready, shred the pork and reheat it in the slow cooker or a low oven, make the sauce, and dinner is served.
The meat is also plenty flavorful without the sauce. If you’re busy, just slice it, serve it, and forget the sauce.
You can also freeze all or a portion of the pork in the broth, or the sauce, which will help keep the pork moist (I don’t recommend freezing the meat on its own). You can freeze cooked pork for up to 8 months.
MORE PULLED PORK RECIPES!
Slow Cooker Cider Pulled Pork Recipe
The meat will release liquid as it cooks. A 6-quart slow cooker for 6 pounds of meat works well. If you want to double the recipe, it's best to borrow a neighbor's slow cooker so you can have two going at once.
If you’d like, the pork can be served as soon as it finishes slow-cooking. Remove the pork from the liquid and transfer the liquid to a measuring cup. Shred the pork and then keep it warm in the slow cooker or on a covered baking sheet in a low oven. Use 2 cups of the cooking liquid to make the sauce. Serve immediately.
For the rub:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and a dash of nutmeg)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the pork:
- 6 pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle hard apple cider
- 2 cups apple cider
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown mustard
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 cups pork stock leftover from braising
1 Make the rub and prep the pork: In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the rub. Trim your pork shoulder of excess exterior fat. Massage the rub into the meat.
2 Slow cook the pork: Place the pork in a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in both ciders. The liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the side of the meat; the meat should not be completely submerged.
Cover with the lid, and set slow cooker to low heat for at least 8 hours.
3 Cool the pork and refrigerate overnight: Let the pork with the cooking liquid cool completely while still in the slow cooker insert on the counter. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and pour the cooking liquid into a separate storage container.
Transfer the pork back to the slow cooker insert and cover. Refrigerate the pork and the cooking liquid overnight or up to three days. (Refrigerating the pork whole, rather than shredded, helps keep it moist and prevents it from drying out too much until you're ready to serve.)
4 Shred the pork: When ready to serve the pork, remove it and the cooking liquid from the refrigerator. Scrape any solidified fat from the outside of the pork and the surface of the cooking liquid.
Using your fingers or two forks, shred the pork. You can do this right in the slow cooker, on a sheet pan, or on a cutting board. Pick out and discard any large pieces of fat as you go.
5 Warm the pork: Warm the shredded pork in the slow cooker on the Low or Warm setting while you prepare the sauce. If the pork seems dry at any point, stir in a few tablespoons of the leftover cooking liquid.
Alternatively, you can warm the pork on a sheet pan covered with foil in a low oven.
6 Make the sauce: Measure out two cups of the leftover cooking liquid. The remainder can be strained and saved for another purpose, or frozen for up to three months.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the tomato paste and garlic. Whisk together and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, finishing with the reserved 2 cups of cooking liquid.
Increase heat to medium high and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the sauce, whisking occasionally until it has the viscosity of thick tomato soup, but not as thick as ketchup, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you wish.
7 Serve the pork: Reserve about 1/2 cup of sauce to serve in a small bowl alongside the pork. Pour the rest of the sauce over the pork, toss to combine, and serve it to the masses.
Place a pile of pork on top of buttered, toasted buns, top with pickles, pickled onions, or extra sauce, and dig in.
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