When I was in my early twenties, I went crazy for slow cookers. At the age when most young women are spending their discretionary cash on shoes or nights on the town, I was saving my pennies for a sturdy slow cooker with a built-in timer and an auto-off feature.
In those days, money was tight (as it so often is in those first years out of college) and so I was always looking for ways to trim my food budget. I took lunches to work, had friends over for dinner instead of going out and turned all my scrap celery leaves, carrot peels and chicken bones into stock.
My fleet of slow cookers made a lot of that frugal eating possible. I regularly used a tiny one to make overnight oatmeal (with a little dried fruit, it was delicious and cheap). I made batches of lunchtime soup in an ancient 4-quart cooker I’d gotten for 75 cents at a yard sale. And I bought tough, unlovable cuts of meat and cooked them tender in my oval 6-quart cooker.
These days our food budget has a little more wiggle room, but I still turn to my slow cookers regularly. This time of year, I use them a lot in lieu of the oven to keep my tiny kitchen from getting too hot. One weekend slow cooker meal that’s particularly popular in my household is pulled pork sandwiches. Served with a three-ingredient coleslaw (shredded cabbage, carrots and a little mayo) and some canned baked beans, it’s easy and perfectly seasonal.
Right now, the version I’m particularly fond of is Trisha Yearwood’s Slow Cooker Georgia Pulled Pork Barbecue. The sauce is homemade (none of that bottled stuff!) and is tangy, not cloyingly sweet. Perfect for steamy days and The Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— The sauce that goes with this slow cooker pork isn’t hard to make, but it does take a few minutes. If you are going to throw the pork into the slow cooker before work, I recommend making the sauce the night before.
— This recipe makes enough that you can feed a crowd with ease. Don’t skip it simply because your household is small, however. Portioned out into ziptop bags, it freezes beautifully and will save you the cost of takeout some night.
— If you’re not a pork eater, consider using the same sauce with turkey legs and thighs. That meat does equally well with long cooking times and makes a wonderfully hearty meal.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.