Nine- hour roasted pork shoulder, from the New York Times

There is something truly magical about pork. Whether it’s in heavenly bacon form or shredded on a sandwich with barbecue sauce, I really dig the pig. And for a chilly place like Ithaca, comforting and meltingly tender pork shoulder is just the ticket. It’s a relatively inexpensive,  tough, and somewhat gnarly-looking piece of meat from the shoulder of a pig, and can come with a fat cap on top that is best left on to baste the meat as it cooks.

I first tried making pork shoulder, or Boston butt as some say, one summer when I had little else to do. My goal was to tackle pulled pork over our little kettle grill but ended up getting impatient with the ten pounds of meat and took it off the heat much too early. My parents smiled politely but I knew it didn’t taste right. I looked up more recipes and found that secret to that beautiful meat you can cut with a spoon is a low temperature and a lot of time. I set to work and found new ways to prepare the cut – it’s adaptable to all kinds of cuisines, and can add a porky punch to soups and stews where it is not necessarily the main attraction. Here are a few of my favorites:

– Swap one inch cubes of pork shoulder for beef in a chili recipe, simmering for 2-2 1/2 hours until tender (yields easily to a fork)
– Cook the same one inch cubes Catalan-style with smoked paprika, green olives, onions and tomatoes until tender for a satisfying winter stew (thanks Food and Wine mag!)
– Braise cubes in a Thai-style broth with coconut milk, chicken stock, lemongrass, Thai curry paste, and lime until tender; serve over rice
– Pat a 5 to 6 pound cut with barbecue spice rub and cook low and slow in a 225 degree oven for 6 to 7 hours, shredding and serving with barbecue sauce and buns for a crowd
– For the  NYT roasted pork shoulder in the image above, turn the oven down to 200 and rub a 7 to 8 pound pork shoulder with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 9 to 10 hours until pork can be shredded easily with a fork. Serve with salsa verde, recipe at, or with a homemade specialty of your own.

The above roasted shoulder recipe came from a group dinner held by a cooking school in Los Angeles, called the “Pork Dinner.” That’s something I could make the trip for! Hopefully, on a cold Ithaca weekend a real live Pig Dinner will be coming to an apartment near you.