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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Niman Ranch: Pulled Pork with Barbecue Sauce

Oh, barbecue. Or, as I will be referring to it through the remainder of this post, BBQ. One of the staple American foods. Though its form may vary throughout the country, one thing remains true: it's usually pretty @#*%&$ing amazing. Oh, and there is one other unfortunate truth: commercially, it usually comes with gluten-laden soy sauce. Gah! So, you can imagine how intrigued I was when, while trolling my local Whole Foods for dinner ideas, I spotted a tub of Niman Ranch's BBQ pulled pork, with the "Gluten-Free" tag prominently displayed on the packaging. "Why, hello," I thought. "Wouldn't it be interesting to try you... especially on one of Canyon Bakehouse's fantastic buns?" Dinner plans made!

So, who are these guys? Well, from what I can gather, Niman's food animals have it pretty good. Until, you know, they are killed and turned into BBQ. But before that point, their animals are kept relatively uncaged, fed vegetarian-only feed, and never injected with hormones. Of course, that latter talking point is slightly dispelled by an admission that "Federal Regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork." One assumes that even if that were not true, Niman would not be going crazy with the stuff. The takeaway? This isn't ordinary meat. Cool!

Preparing the BBQ is pretty easy. It comes in a pouch within a tub. You slit some holes in the pouch, rest the pouch in the tub, and nuke it for 4-5 minutes. You then let it rest, dump it out of the pouch, and you're good to go. Since 4-5 minutes is usually how long it takes me to toast a hamburger bun, the timing worked out splendidly. While it was cooking, I checked out the ingredients a little to see what type of BBQ I was dealing with. The result: tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce... the closest BBQ-variant seems to be Texan. Suits me fine- I'm not as big of a fan of Kansas City's BBQ, and the Carolina mustard-based sauces can be hit-or-miss. Carolina's other BBQ style, the vinegar sauce, on the other hand... DROOOOOOOOOOOL... Er... anyway. The smell that wafted out of the microwave was very enticing, and I had my sights set on good times. I was not disappointed. I would not call the taste of the BBQ sauce "complicated," but I would call it very tasty. As I inferred, the first two ingredients listed for the sauce are tomato puree and brown sugar. No surprise, they're the two most-prevalent taste elements present. If you're not a fan of tomato/brown sugar BBQ, you won't like this. I am a fan. Case closed. The pork, meanwhile was nice and tender and was pulled enough that there were few large, sandwich-busting chunks present. However, there were the occasional chunks of straight fat in there, and those had to be fished out. I know fat is responsible for a lot of beautiful tastes, but I am not a fan of large globules. Get rid of those, and my list of complaints drops to... well, none.

Of course, there is the nutrition issue. It's BBQ, and no one expects a pulled pork sandwich to be the most healthy of delicacies. That said, I am pleasantly surprised by the nutrition info, here. The serving size is a reasonable 1/4 cup (which seems about how much I put in my sandwich). In that quarter-cup, you're getting 110 calories (40 from fat), which is not tremendous. But you're also getting 4.5g fat (1.5g sat fat, 0g trans fat), which seems reasonable, 30mg cholesterol, which is maybe a bit much, and 210mg sodium, which is... okay. So, kind of a mixed bag, here, is what I'm saying. Still, given the usual bomb o' unhealthiness that makes up a typical American BBQ, these stats are pretty good. So, if you want a quick BBQ dinner, check out Niman's Pulled Pork!

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