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Whipping Up a Sauce

July 29, 2014

Twelve people eating. Six adults. Six children. That’s what we’re facing at the cabin every day. Really, three times a day. Even boiling a pot of water to make pasta for that many people is a chore. Honestly, going into this vacation, I had no idea how we were going to be able to do it.

The answer seems to be: in shifts.

At dinner time the kids get fed first. The adults make sure the little scamps have everything they need. Then as soon as they’re finished it’s back to the dungeon downstairs playroom while the grown-ups eat. For other meals everyone tends to just feed themselves whenever they’re hungry. Remarkably, it’s all working out great.

Saturday night we went out. Granted, there were only seven of us then. But we’re going to reattempt this success at the same place on Friday night. At least I think that’s the plan. Last Sunday night was tube meats. The kids had hot dogs, the adults enjoyed sausages. Monday was crock pot pulled pork.

Mrs. Fussy was a big fan of this simple method for slow cooking pork shoulder, and I suspect we’ll be trying this at home in the future. There was only one minor snafu.

Young Master Fussy loves pulled pork. It’s probably one of his favorite things to eat. That, matzoh ball soup, meatballs, macaroni and cheese, beef chow fun, franks and beans, soup dumplings, and dal.

But if you tell him that we’re going to have pulled pork, it puts a very specific flavor profile in his mind. Fortunately, it’s not the flavor of a long, slow smoked joint of meat. That would be hard to replicate. For him, pulled pork is all about the sauce.

Except in all of the excitement of getting the three families together, and a couple of mega shopping trips to outfit the cabin’s pantry, somehow the sauce was forgotten.

Usually, when cooking something, I’ll obsess about it. A lot.

I’ll look for recipes online. Lots of recipes. I’ll consult trusted resources. And I’ll take all that information and synthesize into a broader understanding of the dish. That allows me to take the best pieces from each recipe and make what I think will be a fantastic version of my own.

All that research takes time. I had no such time. The kids needed to eat, and I needed to bang out a sauce with only the ingredients I had on hand.

So, in a mixing cup I combined:

A healthy squirt of Gulden’s brown mustard
A firm squeeze of Heinz ketchup
A moderate pour of red wine vinegar
A shake of white sugar out of the box
A few sprinkles of whatever spice blends I could find
As couple spoonfuls of hot pork drippings

After stirring everything together, I took a taste. Amazingly, it tasted kind of like a pulled pork dressing. It wasn’t great, but that’s why I left plenty of room in the mixing cup. There was plenty of room left to tinker.

A bit more vinegar. Another shake of spice. Some more spoonfuls of pork drippings. And it was getting better.

Mrs. Fussy was called in to taste. She hates mustard, and was hoping I could make the whole thing less mustardy. I swear, she does have other good qualities. Anyhow, in went more ketchup, a bit more vinegar, and more drippings.

Young Master Fussy got the final say. He tried a bit on the back of his hand, and it was fine. But to say definitively, he really needed to try how it tasted on a piece of meat. I could understand that. I mean, he’s just a kid. Anyhow, the sauce passed the meat test too.


Of course, I’ll never be able to recreate what I did last night. But it’s a good reminder that food doesn’t always need to be fussy. And sometimes it’s okay to just trust your tastes and cook without a net. The secret it to taste and adjust. Always be tasting. Taste and enjoy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. MikeH permalink
    July 30, 2014 1:01 pm

    Sometimes simple is best. My favorite for pulled pork is cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, red pepper flake, black pepper and a little salt. Simmer just long enough to combine all the ingredients. East Carolina style. It gets better after a day or two in the fridge.

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