This story starts out sad but ends happy and extremely delicious.

Last summer, one of my best and oldest friends was diagnosed with cancer at age 31. It was such an unbelievable shock and brought me to a realization that the older you get, the more likely you are to start getting deliveries of sad and scary news. I could still picture us at her 1st grade slumber party chasing her lost hamster and all of a sudden, we were discussing the best way to deal with her hair loss from chemo?! The small silver lining was that she received an outpouring of support from so many loved ones. My immediate reaction was to help, support and love her through food. So, I decided to bring dinner to her house every other week when she had her chemotherapy treatments. Doing this started a new type of cooking in my kitchen…thoughts of large batches and things that reheated well.

I have always wanted to use my crock pot more and this was the perfect opportunity. Inspired by a local bar with delicious BBQ Pork Sandwiches, I decided to give them a try. As I often do with new dishes, I looked up recipes and read them all once to get a sense of ingredients, then decided to wing it. I made the pork roast, shredded it and then…. smothered it with Open Pit BBQ sauce. Yes, I too use bottled sauces sometimes. The result was satisfying.

Later in the fall, I went for it again. Only this time, I bought Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce and doctored it up with a secret ingredient. (I am trying to hook you to finish reading this long post… I will reveal the secret ingredient at the end.) Stacked high on a soft, white bun with a side of crunchy potato chips, the result was quite delicious.

The final stage of my BBQ Pork Sandwich journey came after a discussion with my friend Dave. He is somewhat of a new friend and over the past months, he has unpeeled like an onion, revealing layer upon layer of surprises. This guy can program computers, put together IKEA furniture with a blink of an eye, fix things just by looking at them and is a passionate cook. He is working on compiling his recipes on his new site, Forkestra. Dave not only convinced me that making my own BBQ sauce was well worth the effort but lent me his bottle of liquid smoke to give it a try. (Liquid smoke is worth a whole other post… I am so intrigued.)

Last weekend, I started with his recipe, replaced a few of the ingredients with my secret ingredient (still to be revealed) and drenched my shredded pork with the fragrant sauce. The result was absolutely, positively, mouthwatering, never-go-back-to-jar-except-in-a-pinch delicious!

So, at the end of this story, we find my friend cancer-free and healthy again, a new friend with great recipes, smoke in a bottle and a scrumptious sandwich. Told you it was a happy ending.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Homemade BBQ Sauce
Makes 4-6 large sandwiches

For the Pulled Pork:
Press about 8-10 whole cloves into a Pork Roast (mine was about 2 lbs.). Put it in a crock pot with a chopped onion. Add 1 1/2 – 2 cups beef broth so the roast is not quite submerged. Cook on high for about 4 hours or until the pork shreds easily with a fork. Remove the pork, take cloves out (they will be mushy), shred the pork with a fork.

The BBQ Sauce:
1 tbs Vegetable oil
1 small white onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs yellow mustard
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Natural liquid hickory smoke
2 Tbs Moosewood Hollow Sweet Heat (The secret ingredient! Maple syrup infused with habanero peppers)
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups ketchup

Heat oil in a 1qt pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 min. Add (excluding ketchup) remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add ketchup and simmer until thickened and caramelized, stirring often, about 45-60 minutes.


Sauce on the meat, meat on a bun, eat with baked beans, chips, coleslaw… you can figure out the rest.