I know charcuterie boards are all the rage right now, but if you think about it, you can get the same flavor experience with a bit of a nod to American nostalgia with a holiday cheese ball. You’ll save money too because you don’t need the standalone expensive meats and cheeses that make a charcuterie shine.
The other thing I like about cheese balls is that they’re a bit of a blank canvas….you can take a simple concept – a cheese ball base – and then just throw in and roll it in things that you think will taste good together and have several unique taste experiences for your family and guests.
I’m not a big recipe guy – that’s why I don’t like baking! Making breads and cakes takes specific amounts of flour, wheat, baking soda/powder, water, etc. – different amounts will yield different styles of bread, muffins, and cakes. My approach to cooking is knowing techniques and then opening up the fridge and pantry to see what we have, decide what might taste good together and throw things in until tastes good!
That’s what’s cool about cheese balls – you can do the same thing. Traditional, a Mexican flair, Italian, garden veggie, cajun inspired – they can all be done as cheese balls!
Let’s start with what I do for the base:
- Cream cheese
- Shredded cheese (from a block)
- Sour Cream
- Seasonings of your choice (think flavor – garlic powder, onion powder – you can get crazy if you want!)
- Fresh ground black pepper
I do two blocks of cream cheese that I’ve left out for 10 or 15 minutes, a couple big scoops of sour cream (1/4 to 1/3 of a cup?), and about half of a 1 lb. black of cheese shredded up. Throw everything from the list above, except the shredded cheese, into a bowl and mix away. A hand blender or a Kitchen-Aid type counter top mixer is your friend here, but you can just as easily use your muscles and stir until everything is incorporated.
Once it’s mixed and smooth, throw the shredded cheese in and give it another go with the mixer. I decided to make this one with a Mexican take so I used Monterey Jack cheese. After the shredded cheese was incorporated I threw some red chile powder in there and some roasted green chile. I’d use some of my Pueblo Chile if this was for my family, but the news crew just got a 4 oz can from the store. Make sure you taste it now! You’ve always got to taste as you go along. Does it need more pepper, onion powder…something else? If it does, add it!
We’re going to want it to get hard again so use a spatula to get everything off this sides of the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 40-60 minutes.
Once it’s chilled to the point where you can work with the mixture and it will hold its shape take it out of the fridge. Put some oil on your hands and form it into a tight ball. Take your coating, whatever it is, and roll the ball into the coating. For my Mexican inspired cheese ball I’m using french fried onions, and for my traditional cheese ball I’m using crushed pecans.
Wrap your creation tightly in plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge. I like to keep them in there for about 24 hours before I serve them so the flavors can meld together. You’ll want to take it out about 20 minutes before you serve it so it can soften up a bit.
Get some crackers, chips, pretzels, pita chips – whatever works with the flavor profile of cheese ball you made. And put some knives out too, make people use those. No broken chips and double dipping in the cheese balls!