Oktoberfest Poppers: Prost!

Oktoberfest Poppers: Prost!

Ah but there’s good news today! The weather may have finally broken a bit, and there is a good chance we may have a fall season after all. But our extended summer hasn’t deterred those that thrive on this time of year, mainly those pumpkin spice folks. You know who you are!

But there is another group of folks that embrace this time of year, and it doesn’t involve any pumpkin spice anything.

For this…is…Oktoberfest. Prost!

And with Oktoberfest comes heartier, rib stickin’ food. This fact isn’t overlooked by us pit jockeys, so I decided to incorporate the taste of Oktoberfest into a common tailgate offering, constructing a tasty, filling and decidedly fall suggesting Oktoberfest Popper. While not having any of the traditional sausage or cheese concoctions that traditional poppers lay claim too, these are substantial little appetizers that will have you thinking about poppers in a whole different way.

We’ll still start by gathering a handful of jalapeños, so a quick trot out to our garden box resulted in some beauties that were more than ready to be harvested.

Donning surgical style gloves for apparent reasons, especially to the guys out there, I opened, seeded and cleaned the peppers to ready them for an Oktoberfest filling. I like to slit them horizontally in an “H” pattern, or “I” pattern I suppose, depending on how you look at this photo, leaving tops intact and making them easy to wrap while less likely to lose their cargo.

And about that stuffing. I’ve got all the goods, starting with equal amounts of diced apples and onions, about a cup each, three cloves of fresh minced garlic along with a tablespoon each of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Add in equal amounts of rosemary and thyme to your liking.

Give that all a good stir and then sauté the mixture until tender and aromatic enough to make you start thinking about bringing out your liederhosen.

While that is off to the side cooling a bit, dice some lean pork to match the size of the apples and onions. Not pork sausage, but good ol’ pork, about four or five ounces. I used pork from a chop, cutting away the bone and hackin’ and whackin’ until all evenly diced. Add a tsp of smoked paprika, a pinch of brown sugar, a splash of olive oil and another splash of apple cider vinegar. Stir thoroughly and then saute until nearly done.

Combine the seasoned and sautéed pork with the apple and onion mix for a hint of fall.

Now get a healthy amount of applesauce, a half cup or so, and stir it in until you get a mix that holds together when you take a spoonful. I used unsweetened onthese, but if you like things a little sweeter, go for it.

Start stuffing those patiently waiting peppers, pushing and shoving the filling into every nook and cranny.

Next, a half piece of center cut bacon is wrapped around the stuffed popper and held in place with a toothpick to secure the package. A pinch of brown sugar and a quick flyover with a black pepper grinder completed my popper prep.

Onward to the heat source, a fire set up for indirect grilling with lit coals on opposite sides of the grill leaving an indirectly heated space in the middle. I started the lump charcoal fire using Better Wood Products Fatwood Fire Starters, an easy way to get a charcoal or wood fire started. Just cross a couple of the sticks, light, and let them do their thing. In no time you’ll have a quality, aroma-filled fire without the use of chemicals or a chimney.

When ready, a small chunk of hickory wood was thrown on the hot coals, the peppers were strategically laid on the grill, away from the coals but in a way that they would get plenty heat to render that bacon. Close the lid and let ’em go…

After about 13 to 15 minutes, I checked on the progress and rearranged the peppers for even cooking. Then it’s a matter of routinely checking and rotating until the bacon is done to your liking, and I like it crispy.

Pull them off to rest a bit. You can take the picks out now or later, but don’t be that person that takes a big bite of popper only to have it bite back.

Lined up so pretty, these Oktoberfest Poppers taste as good as they look, and even if you can’t feel that crispness in the air yet, the flavorful first bite of pork, apples, and onions will let you know that Autumn is on the way. And we can’t wait. Prost!

Because Life Is Better Wood Fired