The versatile, economical Boston butt

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I am often asked questions about the Boston Butt or pork shoulder portion of the pig.  They are actually the same thing. It dates back to before the American Revolution. Inexpensive cuts of pork were packed into barrels (also known as “butts”) for shipping. Boston was the largest producer of this product so it came to be known as a Boston Butt, even though it is actually a shoulder cut. 

Now that you know where it got its name, you may be wondering what you can do with it. First, it’s available bone-in or boneless. If you are going to cook it whole, I highly recommend buying the bone-in. It will result in a more flavorful end product even if you later remove the bone to make pulled pork, for example.

The next step is to brine the roast. Brine is simply a saltwater solution, which often includes sugar and other seasonings. Start by boiling a quart of water; add 1/3 cup salt, ¼ cup sugar, 2 Tblsp. mustard, and some thyme or other herb of your choice. Then, add a quart of ice and completely chill before adding the pork. You can add any other spices you like to this brine.  Let it soak in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. You can also inject the brine into the meat to speed up the process.

After brining, remove the pork and dry it off with paper towels. Rub the pork gently with a seasoning rub. You can buy one or make your own. 

3 Tblsp. kosher salt
3 Tblsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cumin (preferably toasted whole and ground fresh)
½ tsp. cayenne

Any combination of the following ground spices is good, but optional:  celery seed, coriander seed, mustard seed, black pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika. If you want to emulate a certain ethnic cuisine, use spices from the area or region you are preparing.

My preferred method of cooking from this point is to smoke it at 225°F until the internal temperature reaches 175°F. You can also roast it in the oven in the same manner or prepare it in a slow cooker. If you are in a hurry, it can be roasted up to 350°F but the end product will not be as tender.

This particular cut is also perfect for making sausage, because the ratio of fat to meat is perfect.  If this is the intended use, the boneless product is fine and brining is not necessary. To make sausage, cut the meat into cubes and keep them very cold. You can even put them in the freezer for 10 minutes. Make sure your grinder parts are clean and also chilled. Add seasonings and progressively grind from coarse to as fine as desired for your end product. You can then stuff the sausage into casings or use it as a bulk product in any recipe.    

Whether you call it Boston butt, Boston roast, pork butt roast, pork shoulder, Boston-style shoulder, Boston shoulder, Boston-style butt, or fresh pork butt, this particular portion of the pig is inexpensive, versatile, and extremely tasty! 

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