July was so intensely busy for me that I forgot to tell you all about my new favorite way to use shrubs: as an ingredient in brine for BBQ! The following works for both pork and chicken, and would likely work for beef as well but I haven’t tried it yet (although now I’m totally envisioning Blackberry Balsamic Brisket). As with most non-cocktail recipes, this is meant as a jumping off point for you. Change the flavor of shrub. Add more or less sugar. Use water and beer or broth or some other liquid. Food should be fun, and so should making it.
Mix well in a zip top bag and add 3-4 lbs of meat. So far we’ve used this for chicken hind quarters (where the thigh and leg are still attached) and pork butt. You could also use this for any meat that benefits from a “slow and low” cooking style such as ribs, shanks, and pot-roast style cuts such as chuck or round. I have plans to do this to chicken wings at some point and I expect it will be glorious!
Zip the bag closed, making sure to gently press out any air, and let it sit in the refrigerator for no less than 2 hours, and up to 6. In the bag, a magical thing will happen called osmosis. The end result is the meat will soak up salty sweetness, and any other flavors in the mix (like Peaches), while expressing water. This gives a wonderful texture and means that the meat won’t lose water during cooking (thus staying moist).
Take the meat out and rub it down with your favorite BBQ dry rub. Be generous. Right now I’m totally into Deb Perelman‘s dry rub recipe, though as usual I’ve messed around with things. This rub is earthy, smokey, spicy, sweet and so fragrant. The recipe makes a bit over a cup, so you should get 2-4 applications, depending on the size of your meat.
6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika (I used a half-and-half combination of both which I found well balanced, if you will be grilling this you can lean more toward the sweet)
3 tablespoons chili powder (I have Penzeys Medium Hot Chili Powder at home, which is full of delicious Ancho chilies and cumin)
Up to 1 tablespoon ground red pepper (if you like things quite hot) or to taste (I used something like 1/8 tsp since my chili powder already has ground red pepper in it)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons Kosher salt (I admit I used about half this amount, as we like things a little less salty here, and it was just fine)
Up to 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
Put your well coated meat into an oven safe pan with a tight fitting lid, a roaster, or foil packet, and bake at 300 degrees for 3-5 hours. Much will depend on the thickness of your meat, but I found 3 hours is perfect for bone in chicken and thinner cuts of pork, where a beef chuck roast or pork shoulder will likely take 4 or more hours.
Once the meat is cooked through and falling apart tender, take it out of the cooking vessel and set it aside on a sheet pan. Time to make a sauce!
Transfer the accumulated juices into a sauce pot and bring to a gentle boil. If you cooked in a pan that can be used on the stove, you can use that instead. Reduce the cooking liquid by about half, or until it’s very syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. It will likely be pretty salty, but an extra splash of vinegar (a tsp or two) and another tsp or so of sugar should round out the flavor of your sauce.
If you want you can pop your meat under the broiler for a few minutes to give it a quick sear. I like to do this with meat I’m going to eat by itself, like chicken hind quarters, but often skip it if I’m going to shred the meat like with pulled pork.
Eat delicious BBQ you made yourself. Perhaps with a shrub cocktail along side!