“Village Hammers”: A Serbian Inspired Appetizer of Bacon-Wrapped Cheese-Stuffed Prunes
Are you “pooped” on the poppers?
Weary of more wings?
Are you looking for a new, “go-to” appetizer that’s as quick to prep and grill as it is delicious to eat?
Then you gotta try these delicious Serbian-inspired, grilled beauties, affectionately called “Village Hammers”. (Seoski Cekic)
I was looking for a different appetizer for the grill, something other than the standard wings or poppers. And when I look for something new, I have found the best way to do this is to turn to any one of the barbecue books written by Steven Raichlen. It didn’t take long to find something that I wanted to try. In fact, I made it all the way to page 5 of his book, “Planet Barbecue”, where I stumbled upon these distinctive little nuggets.
Start with pitted prunes, as many as you wish, but I will tell you, these bite size gems can go fast. Yeah, I said prunes. Don’t judge, just do. You’ll be glad you did. I bought these fresh prunes already pitted, but if you are inclined, or have a handy little gadget to assist you, you can buy the prunes and pit them yourself. More power and accolades to you should you choose that route.
Then, you get a good, melting cheese with a smooth, silky taste and consistency. I used Fontina, and it was delicious, but something on the order of Gouda, or even a Goat Cheese would also work well. Slice the cheese into small chunks, rectangles, or cubes. You’ll need the same amount of cheese pieces as prunes.
Next, stuff the prunes with the cheese. These prunes were already flattened from the automated pitting process, resembling small bottle caps, so I “folded” the cheese into the prunes. You could also physically stuff the prune with the cheese chunk, and that may actually allow you to use more cheese than simply folding the prune around the cheese.
And now………..Ta Da……...Bring on the bacon. And make it good bacon. When there are only three ingredients in your appetizer, you have to make sure that all of them are quality ingredients. And don’t even think about saying to yourself, “Oh, I could probably use turkey bacon with this to make it a little healthier!” I will come over to your house and give you the dirtiest look you’ve ever had. It’s a grilled delicacy! Use quality ingredients. Use fresh prunes. Use real bacon. Use good cheese. Enough said.
Now wrap each stuffed prune with a piece of bacon. I used about a third to a half of a slice of bacon for each prune. Wrap them tightly so you don’t have melting cheese leaking out and dripping down through your grill. Hold the bacon in place with a water-soaked toothpick, or you can thread several of these wrapped prunes on a water-soaked skewer as well. It’s your preference.
And that’s it for the prep work. Now off to the grill………
The nice thing about appetizers like this is that the method of cooking is up to you and your time constraints. I set my grill up for both direct and indirect cooking, with the coals all positioned towards one end of the grill. The prunes can be grilled directly, taking only minutes a side to cook. If you grill these directly, make sure you stay with the grill. You will need to turn the prunes frequently in order to keep the flare-ups to a minimum.
On this occasion, I preferred the indirect method, laying all of the prunes on the side of the grill farthest away from the coals. This not only stops flare-ups, but it cooks the fat out of the bacon more evenly while still allowing the bacon to crisp up nicely.
It also allows the grillmaster some time to catch a quick drink, should that be a priority. And on this occasion, it was…………….
The Village Hammers were turned once during cooking, at about the ten minute mark.
By now, the sugars in the prunes are sweet and caramelized, the bacon, crispy and salty, and the cheese is melting in the middle.
The salty crunch of the bacon, the caramelized sweetness of the prune, and the silky smooth transition provided by the cheese middle make these the perfect, bite size appetizer to any meal.
They are easy to prep, quick to grill, and just as easy to eat. Simply pick up the prune by the Hammer handle, (ok, by the toothpick), and pop it in your mouth to get all three flavors in one delicious bite.
But be sure to make plenty, more than you think you’ll need, because they will go fast, and are one of those, “just one more” kind of appetizer.
“Because Life Is Better Wood Fired”