Despite what it's name might indicate, pork butt, also called the Boston Butt, comes from the upper shoulder of the hog. Consisting of parts of the neck, shoulder blade and upper arm, the pork butt is a moderately tough cut of pork with a good deal of connective tissue. Because our hogs are raised on pasture and in the woods with plenty or room to roam and root, this hard working muscle develops a deeper flavor and pink hue unlike anything you can find in the grocery store.
You know the deal - low and slow! To achieve the desired fall-off-the-bone perfection, you need to cook your pork butt to 180-200°F, and keep it there for a few hours. This time allows the connective tissue to break down, and lessens the chance moisture will escape. When slow cooking meat, you want to layer your flavors by using REAL stocks and bone broths along with fresh herbs in your braising liquid. One final piece of flavor voodoo is to not be afraid of acid. Always finish a deep braise with vinegar or fresh citrus. If you prefer to BBQ / smoke your pork butt, use real wood or wood chips and lump hardwood charcoal. You want your meat to be as dry as possible before going on a smoker to build a good pellicle for the smoke to adhere to. ***Pro Tip*** I once had a smoke master tell me that Charcoal and Pork Fat creates some of the best smoke flavor you'll ever try.
The Pork Butt is the top half of the shoulder, not the actual butt, which is referred to as a "ham". Since it’s a very hard-working muscle it must be cooked low and slow. Some suggest that in pre-revolutionary New England and into the American Revolutionary War, New England butchers tended to take less prized cuts of pork like hams and shoulders and pack them into barrels for storage and transport, known as a butt, which comes from the Latin word "Buttis" meaning cask or barrel.