I was watching Anthony Bourdain “Parts Unknown-Sicily” the other night, and was amazed at how similar the scene where they slaughtered the pig and then prepared the meat was to the time-honored Eastern North Carolina tradition of “hog killin” on New Year’s Day. I am not planning to slaughter any hogs in the back yard tomorrow, but will have a traditional menu going.

  • Pork Shoulder, cooked low and slow on the grill. I am cooking a relatively small one tomorrow (6 lbs), and will do it with a 3 gas burner with the meat over a burner that is off, and the one furthest from the meat on high and the middle one on low. Aiming for ~225 degrees for around 6 hours. It is better with charcoal, and even better with dried oak wood (I am not a fan of mesquite), but lots more work.
  • Rub for the shoulder. I am constantly tweaking my recipe and rubbed the shoulder with the following about 24 hours before I will put it on the grill. One quarter cup of brown sugar; 3 Tablespoons of Cayenne pepper; 3 Tablespoons of crushed red pepper; 2 tablespoons salt; 1 tablespoon cumin; 1 tablespoon sage. 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Mix it all together by hand and then rub it on the meat side (I only salt lightly the fat side). Then put the meat in the fridge in a pan covered by foil.
  • Sauce for cooking. The following sauce is applied during cooking ~ every hour. The main reason is to cool the meat during cooking and to keep it from drying out. This sauce is also good on cooked meat, but others like other finishing sauces. To each his own. Cooking sauce: Apple Cider vinegar, with cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper and minced garlic. Quantities to taste. Bring the ingredients to a boil in a pot for 5 minutes and then turn it off covered. Bottle it to save. Note: this will be like tear gas if you bring it to a boil it in your house, so do it on a grill or otherwise outside. You can just add these ingredients sans boiling, but the cooking fuses them.
  • Collards (cooked on the back porch because the smell they make in the house is well, distinctive, shall we say). I have cooked them once in the house in 21.5 years of marriage (emphasis on once). Today I am slow boiling a ham hock all day and will then cook the collards in the morning in the pot liquor. You bring collards to a boil and hold there for around 15 minutes, then put the top on the pot and turn them off and let them sit for about an hour. I like them fairly chunky (some put them into food processor, but too mushy for me).
  • Black eyed peas are soaking and will do so overnight. Then bring to a boil and simmer around 1 hour. Serve with chopped red onions and fresh jalapenos.
  • Cornbread. A twist I like is to add a can of corn to two packages of mix, with 2 tablespoons of sugar added in. It will take a bit longer to cook with the corn it, but it is worth it.
  • Baked sweet potatoes served with butter and cinnamon for dessert.

Best wishes for a prosperous New Year.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Don Taylor

Don Taylor is an associate professor of public policy at Duke University, where his teaching and research focuses on health policy.