Hard Apple Cider Pulled Pork with Roasted Apple Barbecue Sauce

Hard Apple Cider Pulled Pork with Roasted Apple Barbecue Sauce is super tender pork shoulder braised in hard apple cider slow cooker style with a tangy, homemade roasted apple barbecue sauce.  This meal is guaranteed to score!

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We’re serious about football in our house, and when there’s a game on, we’re watching it.  That means I’m in the kitchen cooking up some fun Game Day food, and one of the dishes at the top of the list is always pulled pork.  Serve it up as a sandwich, in tortillas, as sliders…no matter.  It’s always a win!

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I love braising my pork in alcohol (drunken pork?) as it adds a wonderful flavor, like my Beer Braised Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Homemade Pineapple Barbecue Sauce.  I’ve braised it in hard apple cider a few times since the fall, and am finally getting around to sharing it here.

What’s the big difference between braising our pork shoulder in beer versus hard apple cider?  Apple flavor, of course.  I rubbed the meat with a rub similar to the one I used on my Pan Seared Pork Chops with Spicy Apple Chutney, so it would compliment that cider even more.  THEN that pork shoulder was doused with a big old bottle of  hard apple cider and cooked on low for 10 hours.  Yeah, my house smelled good. 🙂

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The meat was SO tender, and it tasted great already.  You could stop right here and serve the meat up as tacos, but isn’t it fun to eat pulled pork with a tangy-loaded-with-apple-flavor barbecue sauce?  I thought so, so while the pork was cooking, I roasted up some Granny Smith apples and pureed them with the other sauce ingredients.  I thought I’d only use half of the apples, but I couldn’t taste it enough, so I went double or nothing.  Then I could really taste those apples!

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For me, it’s not a pulled pork sandwich without coleslaw, so I served it up with my Broccoli Slaw, which I also added apples chopped into little matchsticks and some shaved fennel.  Delish!  My pork shoulder was 3 lbs., and it gave us about 11-12 servings.  There’s nothing like having plenty of pulled pork for leftovers for week night dinners. 🙂

There’s nothing better than this flavorful pulled pork — it’s a huge crowd pleaser, and it really feeds that crowd!  This meal is a score any way you look at it.  Pulled pork (and leftovers) for the win!

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Hard Apple Cider Pulled Pork with Roasted Apple Barbecue Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Hard Apple Cider Pulled Pork with Roasted Apple Barbecue Sauce is tender pulled pork with plenty of tangy, apple flavor. It's a win for Game Day and busy weeknights!
Author:
Serves: 10-12 servings
Ingredients
For the pork:
  • 3 - 3½ pound pork shoulder (pork butt), patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 22 ounces hard apple cider
For the roasted apples:
  • (3) small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½" chunks
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
For the barbecue sauce:
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ - ¾ cup honey or agave syrup (I used agave)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • dash of liquid smoke (about ¼ teaspoon)
Instructions
Prepare the pork:
  1. Place the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, brown sugar, cardamom, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. Rub the pork generously with the spice rub (you will have some rub left over), and place in the refrigerator uncovered for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight to dry brine.
  2. When ready to cook, place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and pour in the hard apple cider. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Remove from the slow cooker, shred, and set aside.
Prepare the roasted apples:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the apples with the olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom on a large rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes until softened. Set aside.
Prepare the barbecue sauce:
  1. Place the ketchup, honey or agave, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, dash of liquid smoke, and salt to taste in a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat till bubbly. Continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender with the roasted apples and mix until smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and sweetener to your preferences. Toss the pork with the preferred amount of barbecue sauce, and enjoy!
Notes
The pork is most flavorful if it's allowed to dry brine in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.
Expect to use about half of the spice rub on a 3 lb. pork shoulder.
The apples and barbecue sauce can be made in advance.
I suggest starting with ½ cup of sweetener in the barbecue sauce, and if you like it on the sweeter side, ¾ cup should do the trick!
Recipe by Flavor the Moments.