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In Alabama when we say barbecue, we don’t mean chicken, brisket, or even ribs. We’re talking about pulled pork, specifically from a Boston butt. If you’re not familiar with what a Boston butt is, it’s a cut of meat taken from the upper part of the shoulder on the front legs. In pre-Revolutionary New England and into the Revolutionary War less desirable pork cuts were packed into containers known as “butts” for storage and shipment. The way the shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known as the “Boston butt” around other parts of the country. It’s a moderately tough cut of meat with quite a bit of connective tissue, but when cooked slow and low all of that changes and it becomes so very juicy and tender that you can literally pull it apart.

Now, to tell y’all the truth, I am not my family’s pitmaster, and I have very limited experience barbecuing. I’ve mentioned the family barbecue restaurant, called The Hickory Pit, and I’ve mentioned before that my grandfather was the pitmaster during those years. A few years after the restaurant was sold, my mother took over that role in our family. Just like most adult children that take over a parent’s responsibility, my mom wanted put her own mark on it, and made some delicious changes. So, this is her recipe for barbecued Boston butt. Please bear with me because like I said I’m a complete novice when it comes to barbecuing.

1 Boston butt
1/2 c lemon juice
1/2 c white vinegar
Ground black pepper (about 4-5 turns of a pepper mill)
2 large pinches of kosher salt
Heavy duty aluminum foil

1) First preheat your grill to about 275F degrees, following the directions for indirect cooking from your manufacturer. My mother uses a mixture of charcoal and hickory chunks. Hickory wood is the preferred type of wood to use in the Southeast because of the flavor it imparts.

2) Stir together the lemon juice, vinegar, pepper, and salt. Tear off three to four sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil and stack them one on top of each other. Place the Boston butt in the center of the foil, fat side up.

3) Pulling up the sides of the foil, make a makeshift bowl. Then pour the lemon juice mixture over the meat.

Coating the Boston butt with the lemon juice mixture.

4) Then continue to pull up the sides of the foil until the butt is completely wrapped in it. Place on the grill (fat side up) and allow it to cook until it’s very tender (this was a smaller pork shoulder, so it only took about 4 hours to cook). During the cooking time, resist opening the grill until it’s almost done. About thirty minutes before the Boston butt is done, remove it from the aluminum foil so that a nice crust can form on the outside. No one in my family likes a burnt crust, but a lot of people do. For a darker crust, just leave it a little longer to brown.

All wrapped up and ready to go on the grill.

5) Once it’s removed from the grill, allow the Boston butt to rest for at least 15 minutes before pulling it apart. Then, using your hands and a fork if you need it, pull the meat apart. If it’s cooked long enough, the meat should easily pull apart. You can use a knife to chop the pulled apart meat into smaller pieces.

Letting the Boston butt rest.

7) Serve the meat by itself topped with barbecue sauce or between hamburger buns with barbecue sauce for a barbecue sandwich. Traditional side dishes are baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, rice, cheese grits, etc.

*At The Hickory Pit, we had a large panini grill that was used to toast the sandwiches before they were served. Now, we simply use a small skillet and a spatula to crisp up the bread. It only takes a few seconds per side, but it makes all the difference.

Lightly toasting the sandwich.
Yum! BBQ sandwich with baked beans and potato salad.

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