This one is a labor of love. A lot of cooking time, not too much prep time, but all of it is worth every minute. You will have folks begging you for the recipe and it’s quite flexible in the sense that you can control the taste and texture of the final product. As long as you stick to the original cooking times and basic instructions, you can play with different cuts of meat to use, and, most certainly, you can play with various barbecue ingredients to get it to just that perfect taste that is your preference.
5-7 total pounds of any inexpensive shoulder cuts of beef/pork (chuck, Boston, butt)
A generous ½ cup of brown sugar, packed firmly (light or dark)
A generous ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
2 cups of water
3 cups of catsup (or catsup and your favorite BBQ sauce combined)
1 tablespoon of dry mustard
1 large white onion chopped fine
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Other possible “stir-ins” (Add sparingly, in the second cooking phase, and taste as you go…you can always add a little more of anything, but it’s tough to take it out once you’ve put it in):
-additional BBQ sauce(s) of assorted flavors
-spiciness in the form of peppers, hot sauce, seasonings
-Asian overtones with soy sauce and/or teriyaki sauce and/or 5-spice powder
-additional catsup and/or prepared or dry mustard
-chopped apple or applesauce
Serve on some good quality rolls, like a nice Kaiser or sesame bun, and have some sliced red onion and grated sharp cheddar cheese on hand for toppers.
- Combine the meat, brown sugar, vinegar, and water in a large cast-iron Dutch-oven, or other heavy oven-proof pot, with a fitting cover. Bake at 375°F for three hours, uncovered. Turn your meat every hour or so to ensure that no single section gets too dark or dried out during the first cooking phase.
- Remove from the oven, remove meat from the pot and set aside to cool. Drain the cooking liquid from the pot and strain it to remove any little chunks that may have fallen from the meat. Reserve the cooking liquid.
- Remove any fat and bone from the meat.
- Shred the meat using two table forks (one to hold a chunk and one to pull the shreds from the chunk you’re holding) and chop to bite-size lengths if too long or stringy. (Our dog Jasper makes out like a bandit whenever this part happens!)
- Return the meat to the empty pot. Add the catsup, mustard, onion, and garlic and stir to combine. (You are going to have plenty of time for other additions, if you so choose, so I would wait until after the first hour before adding anything else to this, let it get started, then take a taste and see where you want to go with it)
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and cook covered for up to 4 (four) hours, covered.
- Stir every 30 minutes, adding reserved cooking water (and/or other additions previously listed) to keep it well moistened.
- This recipe makes a bunch so it’s great for a crowd, or, it keeps well (frozen), too.
Serve on some buns with the red onion and cheese, or stand-alone…either way, it’s great! Enjoy!
I had the wonderful opportunity to help my Dad with a collection of endearing stories that we put together in a short manuscript titled “When I was Kid”, a memoir, if you will. Siblings had been bracing him for a while to produce it, for many reasons. Last year, around June or July, he decided he was going to finally do it, get it done, and distribute it to my brother and sisters for Christmas.
I have previously mentioned that Dad was not well. He had diabetes, insulin dependent and prostate cancer, diagnosed as terminal in May of 2008. I was fortunate enough to be around to help them, as needed. (I would submit to you that your life can take a new slant when you have had a discussion with your father’s oncologist about issues of “co-morbidity”.) Dad had a fairly advanced neuropathy condition and couldn’t write very legibly at all; a circumstance that he personally struggled with regularly. He and Mom had a small microcassette recorder and I had a small digital recorder, so, despite some operational technical difficulties we managed to get into a rhythm of sorts in producing this story of his childhood. We would swap recorders or tapes and I would bring them home and transcribe what he had dictated. In short, this process was something that is hard to describe. We laughed, we cried, it was frustrating at times and heartwarming in other times. Ultimately the piece was produced, bound and sent out in time enough to get under everyone’s Christmas trees.
Long story short (I promise, I am getting to the recipe…), in one of the sections of this piece Dad spoke fondly of family meals, particularly during the holidays when everyone got together. In an excerpt from the section about some of his relatives, he says:
“My Aunt Abby and Uncle Fred got along very well with my parents. This group of relatives would always have holiday dinners with each other, taking turns as to whose house was hosting. Whose turn is it; it’s your turn, and so forth. No one ever ate alone on the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year; they all took turns celebrating. It was great, I’ll tell you…we had great times. After the meals they would break out the cards and they played for hours.”
There may be numerous times that I will refer to this document to describe what I consider to be the foundation for how I was raised and the importance of how our family got together on holidays and for parties. There is strong tie to this and the foods associated with these gatherings and celebrations. Numerous “favorite” dishes, shared and consumed with friends and loved ones…comfort foods? You bet!
Please find below one of my all-time favorites. When we were growing up, we could request (within reason) whatever we wanted for our birthday dinners and I remember that this dish was ordered by me frequently. It was originally provided to my Mom from Dad’s Mom and has been in the family for years…
Hungarian Goulash (Margaret Emma Swartfegger)
Dredge (lightly coat in flour) and brown in 4 tbsp. fat (Vegetable Oil, or Olive Oil will do):
2 lbs. beef cubes
Add and brown:
1 cup sliced onions
1 clove finely minced garlic
¾ cup catsup
2 ¼ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. (cider) vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. salt
Dash of red pepper
3 cups of water
Thicken with 2 tbsp. of flour mixed with a ¼ cup of water
Cook and simmer for 2 ½ hours
Serve over noodles (wide, or extra wide egg noodles are the preference)