I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, I’m sorry. School is keeping me busy and uninspired. Most of what we’ve been eating is recipes I’ve already posted didn’t think you’d like that so just kept quiet. I hope this recipe makes up for it.
Today I’m smoking one of the hams that came from this hog. Since moving to Texas T and I have fallen in love with the great art of smoking meat. It produces tender delicious food from unwanted tough cuts of meat. Now the hog shank was not unwanted, but because it was a wild animal the fat content is low and the muscles are typically much tougher. So the art of smoking on the pit was perfect for this. Everything I read said to let the meat marinate for up to two days to help reduce the gamey taste. Since this was the first time I would be trying a large cut I figured I would do a long marinade.
The recipe I adapted came from Saveur magazine. If you’ve never checked them out I highly recommend it. The recipes are unique and beautifully photographed. I changed up some of the ingredients to what I had on hand, and to make it spicy. It was a recipe they had as a Puerto Rican Christmas dish. Traditionally it uses a whole suckling pig. That sounds like a lot of fun that we might have to try some day.
1 cup of fresh orange juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup salt
1/8 cup black pepper
1/8 cup red pepper
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp garlic powder
4lb shank (the recipe called for an 8 lb shoulder there is more than enough marinade for a larger cut than mine)
Mix all the ingredients except the meat. With a small knife cut many small slits into the meat.
Pour marinade over meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Turn the meat twice a day. Marinate for up to two days. If you are using store bought pork let it marinate at least 8 hours.
A smoker has a side box for the charcoal and wood that cooks the meat with indirect heat. You need to first build a pile of charcoal in a corner of the side box. Douse with lighter fluid and wait about two minutes for the fumes to dissipate.
Then light the charcoal. If you don’t wait you’ll get a small fire ball. This is lots of fun, but slightly dangerous. On that note, always use charcoal outside. It creates carbon monoxide while burning. It is odorless and will kill you. It seems like a silly warning but then people make silly decisions sometimes. Let your charcoal burn for about 10 minutes. When it starts to ash over (turn white) then you know it is ready.
You can place your meat directly on the grill rack or use a cookie sheet like we do. I find that it is easier to lift the meat and helps retain some of the moisture with a cookie sheet. You want to make sure to place your meat fat side up. While it cooks the fat will break down and penetrate the meat adding taste and moisture. Check your fire every 20-30 minutes alternating between adding charcoal and wood chunks. The wood chunks are what provide the smoky flavor. Usually we use mesquite, but today I decided to try hickory.
Now crack open a beer and wait. Smoking is a great all day affair that is usually accompanied by friends or family hanging around drinking beer and playing games. Check your thermometer to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold. 200-250 is the sweet spot. Too cold and it won’t cook risking food borne pathogens. Too hot and your meat will become tough and dry.
Because I had so much marinade, I reserved it to brush on the meat while it was cooking. Pour your extra marinade in a small pot and heat it on low heat. It obviously had raw meat in it and you don’t really want to be brushing raw meat back on your cooked meat. After about 6 hours, check the doneness larger cut can take up to 8 or 10 hours so plan accordingly. You are looking for easy to pull apart meat. Smoking meat is not a quick thing. It can’t be rushed, and honestly why would you want to rush it? Part of the joy is the wait. If you don’t have that kind of time, cook for the first few hours on the pit then finish it off in the oven where the heat is more direct and consistent. It won’t be too much quicker though.
When it’s done bring it to your local Crossfit Gym opening and share with hungry athletes. Congratulations Clay and Sean on your new endeavor. I wish you two the best of luck!