I can think of few better ways to spend a lazy summer day than to slowly smoke a pork shoulder to tender perfection and then shred it bit by bit into a steaming, irresistible mess. And there are few better ways to feed a crowd than with a mess of pulled pork. Traditionalists and keepers of the barbecue flame need to know that this recipe does not claim to ascribe to a particular style, wear any pedigree of authenticity, or challenge the cherished recipe of your grandpa. But it is quite tasty and worth a go even for the seasoned pit master. The brine begins tenderizing the meat and the long, leisurely smoke finishes the job. When all is said and done, this shoulder should be so tender it practically shreds itself. —Toponia Miller
Bring a little more than 4 quarts (3.8 liters) of water to a boil over high heat. Place the salt and sugar into a large non-reactive container. Make a sachet with the garlic, spices and bay and tie securely with string. Pour 4 measured quarts (3.8 liters) of boiling water into the container with the salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the sachet to the brine. Cover the container loosely and let sit for at least four hours, or overnight.
The following day, lightly rinse and pat dry the pork in preparation for brining. Submerge the pork in the brine. Weight with a plate and refrigerate for three days.
Remove the picnic from the brine, place on a towel-lined tray and refrigerate uncovered overnight to dry. Discard the brine.
Make the sauce. In a saucepan over medium heat simmer the red wine vinegar until it has reduced in volume by about half. Add to the pot the ketchup, pork broth, brown sugar, coffee and bourbon along with any smoky meat drippings, if available. Simmer the ingredients together for roughly thirty minutes, stirring frequently, until the flavors blend harmoniously. Taste for seasoning.
Heat your smoker to 180°F (82°C). Place the picnic in the smoker on a rack. Open it up fully so as to expose a maximum of surface area. Put a pan underneath it to catch any juices that drip out as it cooks. Tend to the fire and maintain a consistent temperature as needed.
Slowly smoke the picnic for about four hours, far beyond well done or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 175°F (79°C). The connective tissue should be nearly collapsed and the meat tender and obscenely flavorful.
Remove the picnic from the smoker and set it on a tray to rest. When it is cool enough to handle, break it apart into chunks about the size of your thumb. Place the shredded meat into a pot and stir in enough of the barbecue sauce and drippings to coat the meat well. Place over a very low flame and barely simmer it for 30 minutes to allow the sauce to absorb. Taste for seasoning and add more sauce as desired.