As our week of cheese ball recipes comes to a close, we wanted to share a few final thoughts. First, and most importantly, is that we hope our enthusiasm for the oft-maligned ball has inspired you to brush off your old recipes and revive this classic holiday party dish.

Second is that ingredients do matter. No, you probably won’t want to use your $50/lb. Hook’s 15-year cheddar, but there’s no excuse to use a processed cheese food product, either. This week I spotted a recipe that called for “a jar of Kraft blue cheese.” I can not imagine an occasion for which it would be appropriate to buy blue cheese in a jar. And you won’t see me reaching for the mayo jar either, even if the Queen-of-Butterfat herself recommends it. You can make a perfectly delightful ball with the better cheddars available at your local grocer, or even mix one “budget” cheese with something a little nicer.

Finally, get creative! The flavor combinations are nearly endless. We drew from popular dips, onion and pimento, for two of our balls. You can go spicy with smoked paprika, sweet with cinnamon and pumpkin, or add a Mexican flair with cumin and jalapenos.

Cheese + Champagne Original Cheese Ball Recipes

We’re also tickled to see cheese ball love spreading around the Web:

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Okay, part of the reason we’re so mad about cheese balls is their retro, kitschy fun. And while you can class them up into more sophisticated versions, sometimes you just wanna have fun. I may live in Virginia now, but I’m not a native Southerner. So the first time I spotted pimento cheese on a menu, I skipped over it. Eventually, I caved and sampled the pimento grilled cheese at Cheesetique. Holy yum. Suddenly I understood why pimento cheese was suddenly popping up on respected food blogs. (Pimentos are even starring in the signature mac-n-cheese served on CapMacDC — DC’s new pasta food truck. Yes, you heard me — we have a pasta truck. But we’ll talk more about that later.)

Naturally I just had to had to try pimento cheese in ball form. The best part is that to reach the right consistency, you replace the mayonnaise with cream cheese — perfect for mayo-haters like yours truly. I debated rolling it in chopped pecans, but didn’t want to add the competing flavor. Plus, the red flecks of peppers are like Christmas confetti.

Pimento Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated smoked gouda
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped pimento peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Instructions: Let grated cheeses and cream cheese come to room temperature. Place in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add pimentos, salt, and pepper(s), and mix well with a spatula to combine. (You can also mix the ingredients in a food processor if you prefer.) Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Enjoy with crackers and celery sticks.

Cheese Ball Week continues here on C+C. For today’s ball, I wanted to create one that could pull double duty as an appetizer or in a dessert line up. I started with the fresh, floral Purple Haze chevre from Cypress Grove, laced with lavender and fennel pollen. Instead of the usual cream cheese, I used ricotta as the mixer, and then added a hint of cocoa powder. My “ball” was a late addition to my Friday night dinner menu and didn’t chill as long as it should have, resulting in more of a blob-like appearance. But it still tasted delicious! And went nicely with the champagne we opened for dinner. Should you find yourself with leftovers, it makes a delicious spread for toast, too.

Cocoa-Lavender Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
1 4-ounce package of Cypress Grove Purple Haze
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon cocoa powder, plus additional tablespoon

Instructions: In a mini food processor or mixing bowl, combine the Purple Haze and ricotta cheeses until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon cocoa powder and mix until combined. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cocoa powder on small plate. Form the cheese mixture into a bowl and gently roll to coat in the cocoa powder. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Though it’s still Chanukah and I have some of my potato chip-crusted cheese ball in the refrigerator, today our thoughts turn to Christmas. That’s a slightly weird thing to type, as I’m Jewish, but when I put together today’s featured cheese ball, I couldn’t help but notice the red-and-green color palette. But regardless of what you celebrate this month, you’ll want to make room for this appetizer.

Colleen and I have made no secret of our love for goat cheese on C+C, and I thought a fresh chevre would lighten up the typical (and heavy) cream-cheese mixture and add an unexpected tang to the cheese ball. To equal portions of goat cheese and cream cheese I added a handful of chopped fresh basil and then topped the ball with yellow tomato-onion jam I made this summer. The freshness of the basil matched perfectly with the almost lemony light flavor of the goat cheese, and the tomato jam rounds out each bite with a rich, brown sugar-infused sweetness. If you don’t have any homemade jam handy – and let’s face it, most people don’t – find the best tomato chutney available as a substitute. And next summer, make the jam.

Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Ball

Unlike yesterday’s cheese ball, which required several hours of refrigeration to help it keep its shape, this recipe can be prepared just minutes before serving. The extra-soft texture makes it easy to spread on hearty whole wheat crackers (Carr’s brand is our favorite).

4 oz. soft goat cheese (chevre)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup finely chopped basil
½ cup tomato jam or chutney

Place goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Toss in chopped basil and mix until evenly distributed throughout the cheese. Mold the mixture into a ball with your hands and place onto a serving platter. Spoon the tomato jam on the top and sides of the ball. Dig in!

Two years ago, not long after Colleen and I launched C+C, we decided to mix things up for the holidays a bit and took a break from the Wine Spectator 100 Great Cheeses list to do two holiday cheese recipe posts. I wrote about the updated fondue I made for my family, and Colleen posted a recipe for a Chesapeake-inspired cheese ball. Little did we know that one post would generate close to half our blog traffic over the next two years. Y’all must love your cheese balls because you always seem to be searching Google for recipes!

Ever obliging bloggers, Colleen and I want to give our readers what they want – hence, we officially proclaim it cheese ball week here at C+C. We’ll be posting original* recipes throughout the week for you to use for holiday gatherings or to motivate you to develop your own concoction. And if you have any cheese ball recipes you’d like to share, please send them our way! We may publish the recipes and accompanying photos later in the week. So let’s get started…

Potato Chip-Crusted Cheese Ball

Our first featured cheese ball is a little low-brow (no fancy ingredients required) but still delicious. I wanted to create a latke-inspired cheese ball for Chanukah, hence the potato chip crust. And what goes better with potato chips than onion dip? I wasn’t sure how much onion dip mix to use and dumped in the entire packet, but if you don’t want the onion flavor to be quite so strong, I’d use half a packet. Serve with thick-cut potato chips or buttery crackers.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½-1 packet of Lipton onion soup mix
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup rippled potato chips

Place softened cream cheese into a small bowl and mix in onion soup mix and shredded cheddar with a spatula until thoroughly combined. Shape mixture into a ball and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to set shape. When ready to serve, crush the potato chips with your hands (you want large chunks of chip, not tiny pulverized bits) and spread the crumbs onto a large plate. Unwrap the cheese ball from the wax paper and roll in the crushed chips until the ball is completed coated. Enjoy!

* Though we believe our cheese balls to be original, we realize it is possible that someone else has created comparable recipes and we don’t want to appear that we’re stealing recipes. So please take our word that any similarities to already-published recipes are coincidental.

Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the one time a year we got to eat all the processed junk food our little hearts desired, from ready-made French onion dip and Lay’s potato chips to whatever shrink-wrapped meat and cheese goodies my dad got in holiday gift baskets from his colleagues. I don’t believe I ever had a homemade cheese ball, but we did think the Hickory Farms cheese logs and spreads were a nifty treat. (Funny how warped a sense of “luxury food” one develops when raised on a strict healthy-food diet!)

Aside from the low gas prices, dismal economic reports continue to lead the daily news reports. If you’re feeling a little more frugal (late)-Seventies than Swinging Sixties, the retro cheese ball stretches your cheese dollar and is sure to amuse and delight your New Year’s Eve guests. Better yet, cheese balls are best made from a good, traditional cheddar and don’t require a special trip to your local cheesemonger. Apparently, cheese balls are all the rage this holiday season, having been endorsed by Amy Sedaris and Martha herself (link to video clip). A classic recipe requires cheddar, cream cheese, a liquid (Worcestershire sauce traditionally), spices and crushed nuts. The possibilities for variations are endless, but I kept mine simple and used Old Bay for a taste of the Chesapeake. Serve with some mini crab cakes or steamed King crab legs for maximum effect.

Recipe: Chesapeake Cheddar Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
2 cups grated cheddar 
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup crushed pecans
* (I used Tillamook to keep with the coastal theme. Had I planned a little more in advance, I would’ve used Chapel’s Country Creamery’s crab spice cheddar, locally-produced on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.) 

Instructions: Mix first four ingredients in mixer until well combined. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, then shape into a ball and roll in crushed pecans until evenly coated. Wrap and store in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature (at least 30 minutes) before serving. Enjoy!

Of course, you can make your cheese ball as simple or fancy as you please.  Alanna has a round-up of family cheese ball recipes over at BlogHer, including Big Red Kitchen‘s eye-catching Curried Cheese Ball with coconut and peanuts. The Kitchn offers a more gourmet option, a Blue Cheese and Rosemary Ball, or booze it up with this Cheese Truffle recipe from Tillamook. For a sweet option, try (or imitate) a Butterscotch Brickle cheese ball mix

Ringing in the New Year with cheese? Let us know what’s on your menu!
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