Preparation / Directions:
There are essentially 5 functional parts of the perfect popper. 1) The pepper 2) The filling 3) The initial batter 4) The breading 5) The final batter
This recipe is for 150-200 poppers (to be made in advance)
The pepper: Fresh jalapenos. Take your big batch of fresh picked (not pickled, canned, etc) jalapenos and wash them. The ideal popper is 100% edible, so that you can pop the whole thing in your mouth, hence the name. A potato peeler with a pointed end is the perfect tool for deseeding. The radius of the peeler allows you to make a hole about 1 cm in diameter, which is optimized for efficient seed removal, effective stuffing of popper, and minimal leakage (more on that later). Stab the pepper adjacent to the stem, with the stem on the concave side of your peeler, remove, turn pepper roughly 1 radian and repeat. After 3 or 4 stabs, you will have separated the stem from the rest of the pepper. Pull out, with slight twisting motion, and you will remove most of the seeds. A little additional scraping may be required to get out the innards. Your popper is now a capone. Put aside and repeat until done. If you do 200 peppers, it will take about an hour, depending on how many times you scratch your eye. Add a half hour for each incidental mucous membrane contact. My fingers were starting to 'prune' from the jalapeno juice when I finished. People who haven't burned their fingers on oven doors and hot pans enough times to kill their nerves should probably wear gloves.
The filling: Cheese was a challenge. Cream cheese was a little bland. Cheddar was just too oily when it broke down. Mozz and other white cheeses were just missing something. Velveeta is only allowed in seven chile-head dishes, and this isn't one of them. Cream cheese had the best consistency when cooked, but cheddar/Monterey jack blend has the best flavor. Mix equal weights of cream cheese, finely shredded cheddar (sharp or very sharp), and finely shredded Monterey jack. My batch used 8 ounces of each, which conveniently was also one package of each. Mix these together in a bowl, until additional mixing makes no change in consistency. You should have one big icky glob that has a wonderful aroma. If, after stuffing 200 poppers you have lost your appetite because of the cheese smell, don't worry, you won't be eating them that day.
The batters: Both of them have basically the same ingredients. The differences are in consistency (and time of preparation). Don't use milk for the batter. It won't grab the pepper, because of the waxy consistency. Beer works best of beer, water and milk. Use generic fried vegetable batter (I used the Chuck Wagon stuff), and an equal part of flour. Season with garlic salt, black pepper, onion salt, and powdered cayenne for color (both in the batter and in the unsuspecting faces of your guests). I used about 1 teaspoon of each to about 1/2 cup each of chuck wagon stuff and flour.
For the initial batter, you want it very thick, thicker than pancake batter. This is to hold the breading to the popper. If you add too much beer at the start, add flour to thicken. I think it took about half a beer for this.
For the final batter, you want it very thin, it should take less than a second for the batter to 'climb' the tines of a fork when removed and held vertically over the batter. This has an added bonus of making those little crunchy things to eat with the poppers. This was still less than a whole beer, so don't get too carried away- make it thick and add the beer in small amounts. Remember, don't make this until you're serving them!
The breading: Just a plate with a pile of white cornmeal, dry.
The process: After coring a sinkfull of peppers, stuff them all full of the cheese. Use your pinky to pack the cheese in good, leaving about a 1/4 inch divot on the end of the pepper (recessed cheese, in case I'm not being clear). Then line up your thick batter and corn meal, and an oven tray lined with aluminum foil. Dip the pepper in the batter, holding by the cheese and tip ends. Allow as much of the excess batter as you can stand to drip off. Then place the pepper in the corn meal. Pick up a handful of meal and bury the pepper. Place your hand on top of the pile (cupped), and apply some light pressure to help everything pack together. Pick up the pepper and shake off the excess meal. Again, handle the pepper by the tips, it helps minimize the bald spots. Place the pepper on the tray, and repeat. Place the pan in the freezer. This is called flash freezing. After about half an hour (the time it takes to fill the next tray) remove the first tray, and place all of the poppers in a big Ziploc bag. Put the bag back in the freezer. Wait overnight or longer.
The serving of and eating of poppers: Heat up grease in your fridaddy (or cauldron). Make the final (thin) batter. Get some of your frozen poppers. Some of the breading may have come off in spots, don't sweat it. Dip the popper in the thin batter and put in the grease. Don't worry about excess batter dripping in the grease, it makes good eats. Cook until golden brown. Conveniently, this is also the point where the cheese is melted, yet the pepper isn't overcooked.
Pop in yer mouth
I made 14 in two batches, with the following results 0 poppers leaking cheese 0 poppers having burnt spots 0 poppers losing breading 14 poppers tasting like fresh peppers 14 poppers being crisp enough to bite, but not so crisp that they don't flex 14 poppers where the cheese was perfectly melted 14 poppers that were golden brown