Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cheese balls and Aunt Betty

cheese log roquefort cheese log
Every family has its fair share of characters and mine is no different. It being the holiday season and all, I’ve wanted to make cheese logs and cheese balls for parties. I had a lovely memory of my grandma and I making these when I was little and so I asked her for her recipe. Along with the instructions came the story of Aunt Betty.

As you probably know by now, I come from a long line of farmers. Every once in a while, however, someone would leave the family business and move away to the big city. Such was the case with my great-great-great aunt Betty, my great-grandmother’s sister.

Twice divorced (quite a scandal, I’m sure, back in those days but at least she married well with one husband a lawyer, the other a doctor) she left rural Texas to be an Oklahoma City socialite. Whenever she’d come home to the tiny north Texas town of Melissa to visit, she’d both fascinate and annoy her family with her fancy cars, her fancy clothes, her fancy travels and her fancy food.



In her later years she had to leave the city and ended up back in Melissa. Even though she had returned to her roots, she arrived with the experience of her many years of so-called sophisticated city living. And one of the spoils of this experience was her contribution to the holiday table—her cheese ball. It was unlike anything my rural relatives had seen before, and some sniffed that it was definitely not proper country food. But no matter, it was still a hit and my grandmother, fortunately, got the recipe from her aunt Betty.

I was the kind of kid who loved free food samples (OK, who are we kidding—I still love free food samples) and whenever we made a trip to the mall, a stop in Hickory Farms was a must for me because they were always giving away slivers of summer sausage and smears of cheese that came from a nut-wrapped ball.

When my grandmother suggested we make a cheese ball, back when I was eight or so, I was surprised that you could make something like that from scratch. Even though all the ingredients are natural, there’s something sort of unnatural looking about it, if you know what I mean. To my uneducated eyes, a cheese ball seemed highly engineered, not something you could craft with your own two hands.



I was wrong, of course, and discovered that it’s surprisingly simple. Cream cheese mixed with some Worcestershire sauce, a bit of garlic, a handful of nuts and the cheese or your choice is the basic recipe for a whole host of cheese balls and logs. And the best bit is that they taste delicious, look festive and have that retro appeal that makes people smile.

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I plan on sharing these cheesy creations with my friends soon and often. While I don’t think anyone today would consider a cheese ball terribly sophisticated, I’ll smile when I think about how it shocked my ancestors when it made its appearance on the farm’s holiday table, all those years ago. And, of course, I'll think of Aunt Betty.

Jean's cheese ball (by way of Aunt Betty)

Ingredients:
2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped or ground walnuts
8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder or one clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp minced onions
1 tbsp chili powder [or mixture with paprika]

Instructions:
Mix together the cream cheese, chopped walnuts, cream cheese, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and minced onions until well blended. Roll the cheese mixture into a ball and then roll in chili powder (or paprika). Serve with crackers


Yield:
8 servings

Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM
PRINT RECIPE

Roquefort cheese log


Ingredients:
8 oz. package of cream cheese
3 oz of Roquefort cheese (or any other soft and creamy blue cheese)
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of crushed pecans

Instructions:
Mix the cream cheese, Roquefort cheese, Worcestershire sauce and minced garlic until well blended. Roll into long tube shape and then roll in crushed pecans.


Yield:
8 servings

Notes:
This recipe came from my Granparents’ former next-door neighbor, Norma Gaydos.

Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM
PRINT RECIPE

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56 comments:

Brenda in Texas said...

Hi Lisa, that's a great story. My mom always
made cheese balls but she loved to put pineapple in hers. We thought it was a real
treat during the holidays too. I still make it
and a batch of her "Million Dollar Fudge" every Christmas.

lisaiscooking said...

Fantastic. My Grandma made cheese balls for every holiday, and I miss them! Thanks for the inspiration to whip one up myself.

katy said...

those look amazing. and i love the idea of mixing the roquefort with cream cheese -- mellowing out the taste a little for people who don't love blue cheese as much as i do!

Allie said...

I am going to have to give this recipe a try! Looks very tasty and thanks for the story that went along with it.

My family too are from North Texas (Anna) and often visited OK and Dallas. Lots of divorces too. Very scandalous! Bless thier hearts!

www.screweduptexan.com

Anonymous said...

I grew up with Hickory Farms so I was amazed (and awed) when a neighbor brought us a cheese ball as a housewarming gift when I was about 8 or 9. It was THE BEST! Wish my mom had gotten the recipe! I'll have to give yours a try!!!

jana said...

Cheese balls are fantastic! My sister-in-law usually brings one for appetizers before our big Thanksgiving dinner. This year, she didn't bring it (she just had a baby a couple of months ago and has had her hands full). When we asked her about the cheese ball (kiddingly), she just pointed to her very round-headed, sweet baby boy and said, "I brought this cheese ball instead!" We were happy to have the alternative, but only this once!

Thanks for your great stories along with great recipes.

Farmer Jen said...

Thank you for the wonderful recipes and the story to go with it. I will definitely make these.

smccobb said...

I never grew up with cheese balls (grew up in CA, now live in TX), but my nine year old son saw one at HEB recently and begged me to buy it and it was GOOD! I am definitely going to try the bleu cheese ball, sounds delish!

sue bette said...

I've been wanting to make something like this for an upcoming holiday party - thanks for sharing a family recipe!!

Shannalee || Food Loves Writing said...

I came over here from Smitten Kitchen's mention, and I have to say: your site is delightful. Love the layout, love the photos, love the recipes. Adding you to my reader!

Jennifer said...

This post is so coincidental because I was just thinking about how I need to make one (or maybe two!) cheeseball(s) for the two Christmas parties that I am hosting this month. I'm pretty partial, though: my mom makes the best cheeseball EVER!! I, like you, was completely amazed that that something so...round...could be so easy to create. So, I'll be kind and share her receipe:

Mom Jost's Cheese Ball
8 oz. regular cream cheese, softened
8 oz. Kaukauna sharp cheddar cheese, softened (the kind that comes in the little tub)
2 T butter, melted and cooled
--Mix all the above ingredients well, until it's a pale orange-yellow color
Add:
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. worcestershire sauce
2 t. green pepper, chopped very small
2 t. white onion, chopped very small
--Mix well. Form into ball and refrigerate for a little while.
--Roll cheese ball in chopped pecans (NEVER almonds!) on wax paper.
**For maximum enjoyment and melding of flavors, make the night before you want to eat it, serve with various crackers.
Enjoy!

--Jennifer (Jost) Emerson

valvanderpool said...

Howdy.
I just found your blog by way of Smitten Kitchen. I love your story of Aunt Betty. Thank you for relating the history behind the recipe--most recipes usually have one, though it is not always considered or shared.
I used to make cheese balls all of the time, in my early twenties when I was a foodie in training. I appreciate the reminder of how fun they can be!

Bee said...

How could I forget cheese balls? (And Hickory Farms? That made me laugh. I don't remember ever buying anything, but doing the HF circuit was almost mandatory.) I need a little Texas retro in my Xmas . . . it's getting entirely too Anglofied.

Culinarywannabe said...

I've never had a bite of a cheesball - and I'll ditto your original notion that something about them has that unnatural feel about them. Maybe I've seen one to many holiday baskets with these things tucked in! Your aunt's seems to be such a hit though, I'll have to try it for when we have people over.

brodie said...

as far as i can remember my grandma and mom make these every christmas and thanksgiving, as a kid i was always repulsed but now i love them. there was also a big bowl of scramble near by and we would cover our cheese logs with a handful of scramble. goin home for christmas, so looking forward to it

Dave said...

My grandmother always had these at her house for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. She would have a variety of flavors, such as dill, smokey cheddar, jalapeno, and onion, served with Ritz, Triscets and saltines.

Wendell said...

I make a Cheese log almost every year. Mix together grated sharp chedar with cream cheeses add a little garlic powder and mayo. Roll them into logs and roll in chili powder. You can mix in a few pecans if you like. Got me to thinking, what would some crisp bacon curmbled up be like in either a cheese ball or log?
Wendell in LA (Lower Slabama)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Brenda--Mmm, pineapple. That would make it totoally retro!

Lisaiscooking--You're very welcome!

Katy--It definitely mellows the potency of the blue cheese.

Allie--You're welcome!

Anon--What a great memory! Hope you enjoy it!

Jana--Hope she brings it again next year, but in the meantime you can make one yourself!

Farmer Jen--You're welcome--happy holidays!

Smccobb--I know, people are sort of scared of them until they try it. Enjoy!

Sue Bette--You're very welcome!

Shannalee--Welcome! I look forward to seeing you again!

Jennifer--I can't wait to try this--I love the addition of the green pepper. Thanks for sharing!

Valvanderpool--Welcome! And thank you! Family stories are the best, aren't they? I definitely agree that a recipe with a story always tastes better.

Bee--I don't think we ever bought anything at Hickory Farms either--my health nut mom would have had a cow if she knew I was swiping samples from there. I look forward to hearing about your Christams!

Culinarywannabe--You should try a fresh one--they're awesome!

Brodie--I have to ask, what is scamble?

Dave--The smoky cheddar sounds wonderful!

Wendell--I bet bacon would be divine!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I now must head to the store for some port wine cheese to try in the cheese roll (we have twisted taste buds that can't stand blue cheese).

Farmgirl Susan said...

I saw the post title listed on my BlogHer headline ads, and I knew it had to be yours! Great story, as always. I have a great Southern cookbook that's a collection of recipes from Atlanta sorority sisters, and it practically has an entire section devoted to 'balls' - fruit, nut, meat, you name it. To a former California girl, it's quite fascinating! ; )

The Öbergs said...

This is so fun! It was only 2 short years ago that I realized you could make your own cheese logs, and pimento cheese, and a whole host of other things. Living abroad has taught me how to make a lot of things I miss - even love dip. Funny - all of these things are from your website! ;-)

Thank you, Homesick Texan, for making me not so homesick!!

Stacey said...

I love cheese balls! I am making these tomorrow! Love your blog! I look forward to all of your posts!

Stacey

Anonymous said...

Hi Homesick Texas, I live in Melissa , Texas . It is still a small town, trying to grow. Still small though. I can't imagine how small it was when your grandmother lived here. That is a great story.

The Allen's said...

Is this a Fain recipe or a Jernigan?

MollyElise said...

It's so funny, whenever I read your recipes they are almost exactly the same as what I grew up eating in Houston (family from Beaumont).

This is something I look forward to every holiday, it's so yummy and almost decadent.

Thank you for sharing!

Tommy said...

Great story. Could you tell us why she had to return to Texas ? Something spicy went down ?

I much prefer homemade cheeseballs to the Hickory farm variety. My Grandmother always used Imperial Cold Pack Sharp Cheddar in her cheeseballs. This is almost an iconic food product in Canada, especially around Xmas time.

You can find it some US locations but some homesick CDN's order over the NET.

I do like the sounds of a smoked cheddar as well.

Lisa said...

My favorite cheeseball is made with:
2 pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 small can of crushed pineapple, drained well
chopped bell pepper and onion to taste (1 or 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, pineapple,pepper and onion and roll in pecans.

LeeLee said...

We had Aunt Betty in our family too (in fact, she gave me my nickname "LeeLee.") The main thing we looked forward too every year was the tin of homemade Christmas cookies she sent that were out of this world. I am glad I stumbled onto your blog... I'll be baaaack

sara said...

My mom always made her cheeseball with pineapple, yum! I know where Melissa is, I grew up in Bonham and we made many a drive to Dallas through Melissa. I think they have a Sonic now, they're growing!

Kevin said...

Those look good!

Kristin, a fellow homesick texan said...

Just make both cheese balls to take to a party and they are delicious. Thanks for the recipes!!

Babycakes said...

I enjoyed the Aunt Betty story and I too would like to be nosy and ask why she had to return to Melissa! I'm going to make these cheese balls when I go home for Christmas, they look great and unusual, never had them before.

Esmeralda said...

Great story about Aunt Betty. Family stories are the best.

Hickory Farms rocked our Christmases in the '80s: cheese balls, sesame sticks, and beef stick. It all came to a crashing end when my parents caught my sister and me feeding the cheese balls and beef stick to our cat.

I could easily devour an entire cheeseball and a pack of crackers if given the opportunity. I usually make the savory kind but one year I made a sweet one made with cream cheese, amaretto, chopped almonds, and chopped dried apricots and served it with date nut bread, sliced apples, gingersnaps, and assorted biscuits/crackers.

Thanks for sharing your favorite cheese ball recipes.

Sarah said...

What a great story! Isn't it amazing how food can evoke such memories of people and places? I could eat handfuls of Roquefort cheese at a time, so this recipe is one for me!

ann said...

Ah, yes. The crazy aunt that shocked the family. We have one of those too, Elizabeth. She was a flapper in the 20s and would somehow get herself up to Harlem from rural Pennsylvania as often as possible to go dancing and drink in speakeasies. She also had a horse, named Mr. Nipper that she trained to give any lady that bent over in front of him a gentle nip on her bottom.

I have a portrait of Mr. Nipper she had done, and every time I look at it, it makes me feel a little mischievous. Scandalous aunts are the best!

Callie said...

Loved your story. My Aunt Betty was Aunt Mary Evelyn who loved her furs and her pecan turtles.

I'm gonna try your cheese balls for Christmas. They sound delish.

Anonymous said...

How very interesting....I had a great aunt Betty who lived outside OKC, and I clearly remember her being the "rich" one in the family and being much like you described. My favorite memory is that the had the only cadillac I'd ever been in, and it even had a phone in it (this was maybe 1975 or 1976, and was really something interesting at the time).

Margaret said...

Your post made me laugh, because it reminded me of my Aunt Lela, who was born in deep East Texas dirt farm poverty and who didn't even have a name until she was six (She was born at home and they just called her "Baby" at first and then "Sissy" when her sister arrived. When it was time to go to school, she chose her own name). Anyway, when she was grown, she moved to San Francisco and lived there for more than 40 years. When she retired and came back, she had a veneer of sophistication--she lived in a trailer under the pine trees like everybody else, but it was exquisitely furnished and beautifully decorated. I remember she made a cheese ball with smoked salmon; folks were a little tentative about it but they ate it politely. After a while, she began making it with catfish and it turned into a local sensation.
Adaptability was always her forte.

Ginny said...

Oh Tommy. "Tell us why she had to return to Texas?" It's more like, "Tell us why she was finally able to return to Texas!"

Bren said...

my mom's name is Betty and i love cheese balls! urs look great!

Lisa said...

Wonderful story, and the recipes look great, too. Your mention of Hickory Farms brought back memories! I always considered their stuff very fancy and expensive when I was a kid. I must make your blue-cheese ball/log, especially, as I'm very partial to blue cheese of every variety. Thank you!

Amy C Evans said...

I remember a neighborhood Christmas party in Houston--I was probably around eight or nine years old--where my friend's mom had a port wine cheese ball on the table. I was so enamored with the thing, especially that ribbon of garnet swirling inside, that I excavated it to its core. I remember kind of sneaking it , actually. Since it had "wine" in its name, I wondered if I should really be eating it. I haven't had one in ages, but every time I pass the cheese display at my local grocery store, I am tempted to reach for one of those port wine cheese balls. There's something so perfect about a store-bought one. A guilty pleasure of sorts, kind of like frozen yeast rolls--something I could eat my weight in but just don't want to go to the fuss. Still, how easy is it to make a dang cheese ball? Thanks for these recipes, Miss Lisa!

M-Star said...

I wanted to ask a quick question on the first recipe. How do you combine the cheddar and the cream cheese? Do the nuts get mixed into the ball or are they on the outside with the spices?

I really enjoy your blog! Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--I think it would be good with any cheese, especially one that you enjoy!

Farmgirl Susan--You knew it was me just by the headline? That's too funny! And aren't old sorority, Junior League and church cookbooks the best?

The Obergs--Aw, I'm very happy to help!

Stacey--Enjoy!

Anon--According to her, it hasn't changed all that much, just a few more houses and maybe a stop light or two.

The Allens--It's neither--it's a Chambers recipe, which is my grandma Jernigan's mother's maiden name.

Molly Elise--You're very welcome. And I grew up in Houston, so I reckon that's why everything might seem familiar!

Tommy--You know, I don't know why she moved back--maybe a new husband? What makes Cold Pack Sharp Cheddar so special? Is it extra sharp?

Lisa--Pineapple! Now that's decadent!

LeeLee--Thanks for stopping by! I wonder if every family has an aunt Betty?

Sara--I know Bonham--my grandfather's family is from a small town outside of Van Alstyne called Sedalia.

Kevin--Thanks!

Kristin--Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipes!

Babycakes--Like I wrote Tommy, I'm not for sure why she returned.

Esmeralda--Amaretto and dried apricots? Wow!

Sarah--I love Roquefort, too! It's my favorite blue cheese.

Ann--Is that why you love horses so much? And Mr. Nipper? Besides being a great story, I just love the name--it sounds like an old-fashioned candy bar!

Callie--Oh, yes--I haven't had a pecan turtle in years!

Anon--Wow! A car phone back in the 1970's was indeed a luxury!

Margaret--A cheese ball with catfish--it doesn't get more Texas than that! What a wonderful story!

Ginny--Ha! So true!

Bren--Thank you!

Lisa--I know--I thought it was the height of sophistication myself.

Amy--I remember one Christmas my parents had a crock jar filled with port wine cheese in the refrigerator, and I'd do the same thing--sneak bites because I thought it was naughty. But you should make a cheese ball from scratch--it's fun!

M-Star--Once the cream cheese softens, you just mix the shredded cheddar into the cream cheese. And my grandma mixes in the nuts so they're inside the cheese ball, but if you prefer you can roll the ball in the nuts so they'll be on the outside instead.

Tommy said...

Lisa,

Imperial Cold pack cheddar is very sharp without the "sourness" many of older cheddars seem to take on. It seems to meld well into many things especially a cheeseball. It has been "processed" lightly but has not achieved "cheese food" status and notoriety.

Has the consistency of a good quality crumbly Danish bleu cheese.

radish said...

not only does this look amazing and i'm SO making it for my book club dinner but congrats on the blog envy thingie on BonAppetit.com!!

suburban housefrau said...

Did you mean 2 cups grated or shredded cheddar cheese in the recipe?

Melissa is almost a part of the metroplex nowadays!

Anonymous said...

Holidays are not holidays without cheese dips or any type of finger foods. Great recipe! I love Bon Appetit!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Tommy--Good to know! I hope to try it some day.

Radish--Congrats to you, too!

Suburban Housefrau--Grated cheese.

Anon--I know--those snacks make the holidays!

DD said...

I'm OBSESSED with cheese balls and everyone calls me crazy. Yours looks incroyable, my friend.

Lizzy said...

How funny...I grew up in Melissa. Of course it's a lot different "now that the yuppies took over", as my Dad says. My parents even moved to Farmersville to escape it. My grandparents still live there though and I miss it!

By the way, that cheeseball looks tasty!

Kelley said...

A hankering for Hickory Farms Sesame Sticks sent me a-surfin'... and lo-and-behold, here I am:
From OKC by way of Detroit, Pittsburgh and now Miami.
As fascinating as it was to learn the foods of all three cities. it's blogs like this that make me realize Okie-Texa-Homa really does have its own cultural "cuisine."

So ditto on:

The Cheese Balls
The Summer Sausage
Hickory Farms
Trailers
Cadillacs
And, of course, Aunt Betty

I may have missed Melissa, but remember the Mean Joe Green McDonald's on the way to Dallas

thecosmiccowgirl said...

i was just poking around for a way to spiff up my annual roquefort ball, and lo 'n' behold, came across you're wonderful aunt betty story. i guess the cheese ball mixture tends not to vary much. i DO add a dash of cayenne and a few drops of cholula ('cos that's the kind of girl i am) and also a few teaspoons of very finely chopped celery and purple onion, then roll it all in some toasted walnuts. i suppose that's where my california upbringing comes in-i prefer them over pecans, but don't tell anyone here in texas! hope you enjoy your holiday.

Tiffany said...

"Mom, I'm bringing an appetizer to the party - it'll be a surprise!"

"Oh Lord - I hope it's not a cheeseball".

HA! It was a cheeseball and it was the first to be polished off w/i minutes & recipe requested by all! We've laughed about that exchange for a long time now. But as much as I love it, I hate making it b/c it involves dusting off the food processor. Clearly, your recipe is so much easier and I CAN NOT wait to try it! MMMMMMMMMM! xoxo

Anonymous said...

I made a cheese ball back in the early 80's that was very easy just a box of cream cheese, a small box of velvetta, we used velvetta ALOT in those days, even in our king ranch chicken! LOL! and a small amt of garlic and whatever other spices you like and a package of finely chopped pecans. mix together well. form into balls and roll each ball in chili powder to coat and put them in ice box. Thanks for all your recipes! I am so missing texas right now!

JILL PLENTY said...

I'm 43 and for as far back as I can remember, we always had a Cheeseball at Christmas. It was made with cream cheese, horseradish, chopped dried beef, etc. and we still have it every year. It just wouldnt be Christmas without it!

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