Hail to Root Beer
Recipes & text by Jim McCaffrey • Photos by Aryn Henning Nichols
Illustrations by Lauren Bonney • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)
One of my earliest memories is my dad coming home from work and bringing in a gallon glass jar of root beer that he had gotten filled at the local A&W. He would then proceed to make – for all us kids and friends that might be hanging out – the greatest root beer floats. This happened quite often. At the time we lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and life was a pretty simple.
Mom would spend her days in the garden or washing clothes or baking bread. Us kids would do our best to help her out. But the best event of the day was at the dinner table. There we shared laughs and giggles, pulled pranks on each other, and enjoyed root beer floats. Ah, living the dream.
Life continued on and, of course, circumstances change. Dad got a job as a rural mail carrier in Decorah and we moved. And, somehow, the root beer tradition didn’t follow along.
So, 20 years ago or so, I was perusing the internet and came across this recipe for root beer pulled pork. The pork was served as a sandwich and topped with Carolina Coleslaw. This is a coleslaw that is made with apple cider vinegar instead of mayonnaise. The two flavors of each recipe just instantly bond – it was a marriage made in heaven… or possibly North Carolina. Wow, it blew me away. So this has been in our family repertoire of recipes ever since.
It is a great summer staple and we probably served it four times last summer for our Saturday Summer Concert nights. A year ago, we held our first McCaffrey family reunion at the restaurant and the pulled pork and coleslaw was the star attraction. So much so that we have had numerous requests to bring it to the table again this year. Ok, ok, just twist my arm. These recipes are now part of our family’s traditional cherished jewels. We have shared them with family and friends for the last 20 years, and now we are sharing them with you!
Maybe throw in a couple of root floats for the kids and adults too… it wouldn’t hurt! Now that’s summer!
Jim McCaffrey is a chef, author, and co-owner with his family of McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita restaurant and Twin Springs Bakery just outside Decorah. He is author of humorous cookbooks “Midwest Cornfusion” and “Mississippi Mirth”. He has been in the food industry in one way or another for more than 40 years.
PRINT RECIPE HERE
(Look ma, no mayo!)
- 1 large head of cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 med green pepper, chopped fine
- 1 med red onion, chopped fine
- 2 carrots, grated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Mix all vegetables in a (very) large bowl. In a saucepan, combine dressing ingredients. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate until chilled. 8-10 servings. Great to top pulled pork.
Root Beer Pulled Pork
- 1 2 1/2 to 3 lb pork butt
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbl canola oil
- 2 med onions, sliced thin
- 1 cup root beer
- 1 cup bottled chili sauce
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups root beer
- 8-10 hamburger buns
Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides in the canola oil. Transfer meat to a 5-quart crockpot. Add onions, 1 cup root beer, and garlic. Cook 4-5 hours on high heat. Make sauce. Combine remaining root beer and chili sauce in a large sauce pan. Simmer and let cook down about 30 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Using 2 forks shred pork. Place in bowl and add cooked sauce. Mix well. Place a portion on a bun and top with Carolina slaw.