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Seriously Simple: Pulled pork for Fourth of July

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

I love traditions. Ever since I first made this dish, my family and friends insist I serve it on the Fourth of July. I am a fan of the punched-up flavor of the cider vinegar barbecue sauce. As a Californian, I found a way to prepare this that fits in with the Seriously Simple style of cooking.

The first time I made this Southern dish, I was surprised at how easy it was to put together. I mean, how tough is it to roast pork for five hours and then pull it apart with a fork? Southerners may be appalled at my roasting it rather than barbecuing it, but once you taste it, I think you will agree that it's out of this world. The meat steams in the foil while the spice rub gently marinates and tenderizes it.

This is one of those dishes that is perfect for a large group: In addition to being easy to make, it's inexpensive. You can make it a few days in advance. I like to rub the pork with the spicy mix and let it sit overnight before roasting. I prefer making the sauce, but if you are pressed for time, use your favorite barbecue sauce instead. Serve soft white rolls, like the Hawaiian sweet bread buns, with the pork. Accompany it with your favorite coleslaw and baked beans, if you like. A frosty American craft beer is just the ticket for a memorable meal.

The clever cook could:

• Add a favorite barbecue sauce if the meat becomes dry.

• Use the meat in burritos, tacos or enchiladas.

• Make hash with the meat.

• Top a pizza with the meat and add some shredded jack cheese.

Pulled Pork

For the rub:

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon minced dry onion or onion powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard, preferably Coleman's

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

14 cup (tightly packed) dark brown sugar

1 (7-pound) bone-in pork butt

For the vinegar sauce:

3 cups apple cider vinegar

3 cups ketchup

2 cups (tightly packed) dark brown sugar

1 cup molasses

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

13 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups barbecue sauce (your favorite)

1 teaspoon salt

Cayenne or Tabasco sauce, optional

16 Hawaiian bread buns or any soft bun

To make the rub: In a small bowl, combine the ingredients and stir with a fork until the brown sugar is completely blended with the spices.

Cut 2 pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil long enough to wrap the pork, and put them on a baking sheet. Place the pork butt in the middle of the foil. Sprinkle the top and sides with half of the rub and gently massage it in. Turn over the meat, and massage in the remaining rub. Pull up the foil and carefully wrap the meat around it, so that there are no holes or openings in the foil. Put the pork in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Transfer the pork package to a large Dutch oven and cover the pot. Bake for 5 hours without taking off the lid. After 5 hours, remove the lid. Open the foil and use a spatula to push the meat off as you pull with the other hand to lift out the foil. Return the meat to the oven, and roast 1 hour more, or until the top has a crispy crust.

To make the vinegar sauce: Combine the ingredients in a large saucepan and whisk to combine. Place the pan on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Season to taste. To make it spicier, add some cayenne or Tabasco sauce.

Remove the pork from the oven (leave the oven on). Place on a large baking sheet. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Degrease the Dutch oven and reserve. Using 2 forks, pull the meat apart. Return to the Dutch oven and pour 3 cups of the sauce over the pork. Mix together and cook for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat to meld the flavors.

Warm the buns in the oven for about 8 minutes. For each serving, place a bun on a plate and, using an ice-cream scoop, scoop the pork onto the bottom half. Spoon on additional sauce and cover with the top of the bun.

Serves 16

Party Prep: The pork may be prepared through step 5 up to 3 days ahead, and stored, covered, in a container in the refrigerator. Reheat the pork gently. You may need to add some water to moisten the pork. Leftovers may be frozen in lock-top plastic bags. Push out all of the air before you seal the bags. Defrost and reheat the pork gently. You may need to add water to moisten the pork.

Diane Rossen Worthington is a cookbook author and a James Beard award-winning radio show host.

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