Who doesn't like a helping hand in the kitchen? That hand very well may be a slow cooker.
Actually, I think most of us know a person or two who doesn't want to relinquish any control of the cooking, be it to a person or an appliance, but that's another story.
I always vow to use my slow cooker more than I do, since letting dinner "wait on you" is certainly a welcome respite during the work week.
I also tend to use a slow cooker only in cool weather months, although the latest slow cooker cookbooks are chock-full of recipes that are good for any season and any temperature of the year. Two recent requests are great examples.
Readers asked for pulled pork and vegetarian main dishes a la slow cooker. Opposite desires but equally worthy. We'll do the pork this week and veggies the next.
That also means more time if any of you still want to share your vegetarian slow cooker magic!
Lorie Land of Johns Island says she has been reading this column since moving here three years ago. "I had never heard of hummingbird cake until we came, and that is my signature cake now. I got the recipe from your column, as well as others. I decided it was time for me to help out another reader instead of always being the recipient. This is an easy Crock-Pot pulled pork that can be served plain or with barbecue sauce mixed in."
Crock-Pot Pulled Pork BBQ
4 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder
1 can cola
Pork rub or seasoning (optional)
2 bottles barbecue sauce or to taste (optional)
Place pork in cooker, pour cola over, add pork rub or seasoning (if desired), cover, and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours or until pork can be easily shredded.
Remove pork from cooker. Let it cool slightly. Using two forks or your fingers, shred meat in bowl, removing all possible fat. Save a small quantity of liquid to mix in later to remoisten, if needed.
Return shredded pork to pot. Add barbecue sauce to taste, or cooking liquid.
Put on lowest setting and serve on buns. Freezes well.
Sharon Cook of Charleston writes, "This is a really easy request to fulfill. My husband says he made a good 'Cook' out of me, but he confesses that he married me because I could make good barbecued pulled pork.
"For many years, I used to prepare this pork in the Crock-Pot and we would share it with his coworkers. Until just recently, we never let them in on the secret that it was made completely in a Crock-Pot indoors. Nobody had to dig a 'cue pit and nobody sat up all night drinking beer and babysitting a slow-cooking pig pit.
"I also fooled my older brother, who lived in Memphis, the 'BBQ Capital,' for many years but did finally make it for him when was visiting. He loved it and said he would never have believed it was made in a Crock-Pot if he hadn't seen it for himself."
Makes 5 to 6 pounds
1 (6- to 7-pound) Boston butt roast (bone-in adds extra flavor)
10 cups water
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Montreal Steak Seasoning Blend
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 (16-ounce) bottles barbecue sauce of choice
Put the whole roast in a 6-quart slow cooker, add the water and spices, and cook on HIGH for about 8 hours overnight. In the morning, remove the roast from the pot. Discard the bones and the cooking liquid.
Use two forks to pull the pork into fairly large pieces; it will fall apart even more on its own during the next step of the cooking process. Also discard any fatty pieces during this process. Return the shredded pork to the pot, turn the heat to LOW and let it cook another 6 to 8 hours. (This browns the edges of the meat, and most people think that is the "smoke" ring).
Add 2 bottles of barbecue sauce (Sharon uses Kraft Hickory Smoked BBQ Sauce and Bessinger's Carolina Gold). The cooked pork will quickly absorb most of the sauce. Turn the slow cooker to the lowest setting and serve the barbecue about 2 hours later.
Serve additional barbecue sauce on the side.
Who's got the recipe?
--A Summerville reader is looking for more ways to use fresh tangerines before they go out of season. She would welcome any recipes, but particularly for a cake or other dessert.
--Still looking: A Johns Islander seeks recipes for homemade pecan rolls.