Let’s just get the name thing out of the way right now. I call these “Turd Rockets” because that is what they were called the first time that I was shown the basic recipe. I have seen them called lots of other things since: Pig Poppers, Atomic Buffalo Turds, and – at one hole-in-the-wall bar in Port Arthur where they made exceptionally good ones – Big Dumpers. I’m a sucker for tradition, though, so despite both the plethora of more interesting names and many tweaks to the recipe I will always call them Turd Rockets.
That said, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for “Big Dumpers”.
Anyway. These are a barbeque riff on the classic jalapeño popper. Instead of battering and deep frying, though, the stuffed pepper gets wrapped in bacon and smoked. And if you were maybe thinking that the combination of sweetened cheese and sausage and jalapeño and bacon and two hours over a smoldering wood fire was a good thing, you would be absolutely right. Keep reading to out just how right.
Mmm … Big Dumpers.
Turd Rockets are (along with Chicken Shakeys) pretty much the ultimate barbeque appetizer because they take 2 hours in the pit. If you have been paying attention, you will remember that most big hunks of traditional barbeque meat – brisket, pork shoulder, etc. – are best when they get 2 hours to rest after they are pulled from the fire. You do all the prep work ahead of time and then just toss these into your already-smoking pit when you need to sit around and wait anyway. That is what the pros call money in the bank.
To make a batch of 24 or so rockets (the number is somewhat approximate depending on the size of your jalapeños) you will need:
24 jalapeño peppers
1 brick of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 of a red onion
1/4 cup of brown sugar
one package of smoked sausage with cheddar
2 packages of bacon (see note below)
You will also need a couple of dozen toothpicks, and make sure you get the round ones, not those flimsy flat things.
A Note About Bacon: A constant theme in barbeque is getting big flavour from inexpensive ingredients, and this is no exception. You want to use the cheapest bacon you can find. The thinner and fattier the bacon is, the better these will work.
Make the filling first. Chop the onion as finely as you can and then mix it with the softened cream cheese and the brown sugar. Set this aside on the counter while you split and clean your peppers – you want to give the flavours a chance to mellow out and blend.
Cut the stem end off each pepper, and then cut each one in half lengthwise.
Keep each pair of halves together so you can mate the correct ones up when you put them back together later. Matching the halves is crucial for your structural integrity a couple of hours from now. After you have all your peppers split, you want to clean both the seeds and the ribs out of each one. I find this is easiest with an old-school grapefruit spoon – the kind with the little serrations on the top of the spoon. You want to completely scrape out all of the ribs so that you don’t see any white remaining on the inside of the peppers.
Once you have your array of cleaned and paired up hollow peppers, grab your cream cheese mixture and loosely fill each “jalapeño canoe”. You don’t want to pack it in because you need room to slip some of the sausage in each re-constructed pepper.
Now cut large “slivers” of meat from your cheddar smoked sausages. I do this step after the filling of the pepper halves so I can see exactly how big I want to cut my sausage. You want the sausage meat to be completely inside the re-assembled pepper, and not so big around that it leaves no room for the cream cheese filling.
Slip each sausage sliver into one have of each mated pair of pepper halves.
Then close up each pair and gently press them together so that the seam is tightly shut. If some of the cream cheese mixture oozes out, clean it off and use it to top up any peppers further down the line that don’t have enough filling of their own.
Now wrap each pepper with one whole slice of bacon. Start at the open end, wrap down to the narrow end and then back up to the top. Each slice of bacon should be just long enough to do this. When you get the pepper fully wrapped secure the bacon with one toothpick pushed completely through the pepper, making sure the toothpick catches the bacon, both halves of the pepper, and the sliver of sausage that is inside the filling.
Here I have used two toothpicks per pepper, but that was overkill. You will only need one toothpick.
Now they are ready for the pit. You want to smoke these at 125 degrees C (250 F) for 2 hours. Use a nice mild wood – pecan or apple is best, if you use something with a lot of bite like hickory or mesquite it is going to be overpowering. Despite these being full jalapeños, this is actually a subtle dish and you want to be able to enjoy all of the flavours.
After two hours in the pit take they are ready to be devoured. I find it’s best to leave the toothpicks in, it keeps everything together during that first big bite and it gives you something to hold onto. Serve them as immediately as possible – the flavours seem to be the brightest and the texture is the best when they are still freshly hot from the pit.
If you have leftovers (which you probably won’t, these things go down so fast it will make your head spin) you can keep them in the fridge for a few days and then heat them back up in either a toaster oven or full conventional oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Don’t reheat them in a microwave, it will destroy the texture.
Making your first batch of Turd Rockets will take a bit more time and patience than you think, but the result is more than worth it. After you have made a few more batches (and trust me, you will) the process will move along pretty quickly. And no matter how many you make, you will probably wish you had made more. Guaranteed.
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