Wiktionary defines a cheeseball, or cheese ball, as, "a spherical mass of cheese or cream cheese, often including nuts or other additions and served as an hors d'oeuvre or finger food, usually with bread or crackers."
Some claim the cheese ball originated with the 1,235 pound mammoth cheese structure Elisha Brown Jr. presented to Thomas Jefferson in 1801. However, the spherical spread disappeared from cuisiniers' culinary repertoire until 1944 when the first known cheese ball recipe appeared within the pages of Virginia Safford's cookbook, "Food of My Friends."
Since the cheese ball's debut, the mixture of cheese, spices, and flavorful additives has become something of a holiday party tradition. While I have no objective numbers to back up my belief, I'd bet good money the cheese ball is second only to the fruit cake when it comes to edible holiday gifts.
In any event, the holiday season makes me hungry for the dairy based cracker topping. I could've picked up a fairly tasty one, for $5 to $10, from my local grocery store or Hickory Farms kiosk. I wanted to make my own this year though, so I did what any good 21st century foodie does. I surfed the web for recipes.
Today, a wide array of cheese ball flavors exist, including;
(Click on each flavor below to see its recipe.)
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball,
- Green Onion & Swiss Cheese Ball,
- Port Wine Cheese Ball,
- Olive Cheese Ball,
- Southwestern Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball,
- Spinach Cheese Ball,
- Spicy Taco Cheese Ball,
- Pizza Cheese Ball,
- Cheddar Horseradish Cheese Ball,
- Herb Coated Goat Cheese...
As I'd hoped, the end product was smoky and savory with a slight tang on the finish, furnished by the dry ranch dressing mix. Even though I like this version, you should feel free to experiment, keeping a few simple rules in mind.
- Use a soft cheese as a base. You can add other cheeses if you like, but you need a pliable base (cream cheese, soft goat cheese, Mascarpone, etc...) which can be molded into a ball.
- Flavor your ball with additives that are tasty but not over powering (green onion, herbs, mild spice, packaged seasoning, etc...).
- Include a crunchy ingredient (nuts, bacon bits, green onion, etc...) for texture.
Bacon Ranch Parmesan Cheese Ball Recipe
8 ounces of cream cheese,
1 ounce of packaged dry ranch dressing mix,
3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese,
1 (3 ounce) bottle of bacon bits
Take 8 ounces of cream cheese (softened) and mix till slightly whipped. Add 1 ounce of ranch dressing and mix till incorporated. Fold in 3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Pour 3 ounces of bacon bits in a pie tin. Form cream cheese mixture in to a ball with your hands. Roll ball in bacon bits till covered. Wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight to let it become firm. Remove from fridge and serve with crackers, bread, and/or *crudités.
You CAN fry and crumble your own bacon to make your own bacon bits. However, according to the Cookbook Equivalencies Page of Wikibooks it takes 1.5 pounds of raw bacon to produce 3 ounces of bacon bits. Plus, when making bacon bits, for this recipe, unless the cook makes sure to dab ALL the excess grease from the bacon bits they run the risk of the cheese ball turning rancid. Not only are packaged bacon bits more cost effective, they're safer.
*Crudités is a French term for pieces of raw vegetables (such as carrots and celery) served before a meal.
Recipe prints as a single pages for your recipe file or refrigerator.