I’m not sure if, in other parts of the world, “cheese balls” are appetizer favorites, but for as long as I can remember there has been some sort of variation of the cheese ball at any significant gathering I’ve attended.
They typically contain cream cheese, seasonings, herbs, vegetables, and either a chopped nut or dried meat coating. Some involve Cheddar, port wine, or Swiss. Served with crackers, these are a crowd favorite at potlucks and holiday parties in the United States.
At a work Christmas party, I once had a memorable version laced with scallions and coated with bits of shaved ham. My mom makes hers with deliciously salty dried beef; my in-laws favor port wine with Cheddar. I’ve seen them dotted with chopped olives, bell peppers, and even dried fruits.
Our favorite cheese ball (and a favorite of many of our friends) combines savory and sweet flavors in a rich, smooth cheese spread. I coat it in chopped pecans for a delicious bite. At our recent derby party, we served it alongside my moscato punch, benedictine dip, and other finger-foods. In the words of our foodie friend: “This may be the BEST cheese ball I’ve eaten…and I’ve eaten A LOT of cheese balls.”
I usually make the cheese ball, wrap in plastic wrap to chill in the refrigerator overnight, and then coat it the next day. It’s easier to spread if not served directly out of the refrigerator, so I coat it about a half hour prior to serving.
Savory Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Ball
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne to taste (a couple of dashes)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
*Coating: 1/2 to 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
Briefly whip the cream cheese with electric mixer and then add all ingredients except for the pecans and combine well. Scoop mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap, shaping into a ball, and refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow flavors to meld.
A half hour prior to serving, remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and unroll onto the plastic wrap. Cupping small handfuls of chopped pecans, press them onto the outside of the cheese ball, using the plastic wrap to assist.
Serve with a variety of crackers.