When I received an email about participating in the latest Kitchen PLAY event with Calphalon products, I was incredibly excited. It has been almost a year since I last participated in a Kitchen PLAY event, and I looked forward to getting a little creative in the kitchen. I soon found out that I would be receiving a Calphalon 4 Qt. Digital Slow Cooker, part of their new Kitchen Electrics line. My assigned course was appetizer, which threw me for a second. When I think of slow cooking, I often think of main courses like chili, soups, and slow cooked meat. While I waited for the slow cooker to arrive, I slowly pulled together an autumnal recipe that would be a great appetizer, Spicy Maple and Apple Pulled Pork Sliders, served on fresh corn muffins.
When the slow cooker arrived, I opened it right away and instantly loved its modern stainless finish and the very easy digital display. I couldn’t wait to get cooking, and with the weather the way it has been, it was the perfect timing for a cozy meal.
First I assembled the ingredients for the slow cooking portion of this dish. If you have the time, you will want to get it started as early as possible, on low, so that it cooks all day long and just falls apart.
1 pork butt, fat on (You can remove it later in the cooking as I did, but the meat gets a lot of flavor and moisture from leaving it on!)
2 cups pickle juice, preferably from some zesty homemade pickles
1 cup white vinegar
4 tsp chili powder
4 tsp paprika
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 apples, cored and chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
I mixed the chili powder, paprika, pumpkin pie spice, and crushed red pepper and set it aside so that I could get the pork situated in the slow cooker (Note, you have to take the string off. Doing so made me think of the butcher on the Brady Bunch). It fit perfectly in the four quart space, not touching the sides but there also wasn’t so much room that I felt the need to fill it with liquid which I sometimes do after a little slow cooker burning incident. I poured the pickle juice (from a local pickle maker, Grillo’s) over the pork, following that with the white vinegar. Then I sprinkled about 1/4 of the spice mixture on the side of the pork that was not in the liquid.
I set the digital timer on the slow cooker to 7 hours and cooked the pork on low for the entire time. Every couple of hours, I went in, turned the pork, sprinkled the newly exposed top with spices, and let it do its thing. All of the spices can go in at once, if you are not home, but I liked how each time I did this, the top kind of got a spice crust, really sealing in flavors and moisture. And when the pork started to fall apart, I used tongs to pull off as much fat as I could. Fat’s good for cooking, but you definitely don’t want a ton of it in your pulled pork!
At around the 6th hour, I chopped my apples and placed them on top of the pulled pork, closed it up and walked away.
Because the apples have sugar in them, I didn’t want to cook them all day. An hour made them soft and imparted their sweetness on to the pork, but it wasn’t enough to burn them. The last step was to turn the slow cooker to warm and to mix in the maple syrup.
I left the pulled pork and apples in the slow cooker on warm while I made some homemade corn muffins. When we were ready to eat, I assembled little sliders of pork, apples, and cornbread. The flavors were all over the place, sweet from the apples, pie spice, and syrup, but nice and spicy from the chili powder and crushed red pepper. And the vinegar offered a nice tang, along with helping to make the meat super tender. These would make an awesome appetizer for a casual fall party, watching football, or a pot luck. I love making pot luck dishes in the slow cooker; it’s so easy to pick it up and bring it along, keeping everything nice and warm!
What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes? Do you ever make dishes other than main dishes in the slow cooker?
||Calphalon is also sponsoring a wonderful giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s Progressive Party, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win a Calphalon Kitchen Electrics prize valued at $100 (6 prizes total). The deadline is November 30, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Good luck!
Thanks so much to Calphalon and Kitchen PLAY for allowing me to participate in such a fun online event! I did receive the Calphalon slow cooker free of charge, but my opinions are my own.