Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chipotle cranberry sausage balls

chipotle cranberry sausage balls | Homesick Texan

Behold the sausage ball. It’s not the prettiest treat on the appetizer table but it’s certainly one of the more popular. Indeed, I dare anyone to stop eating after popping one of these savory morsels into their mouth. Nope, if you’ve had one sausage ball then I’m going to assume that you’ve had at least two and perhaps even three. They go down easy and invite you to try at least one more.

For those of you not familiar with the sausage ball, if you are looking at the photo above in all its ugly glory, you may be thinking that I’ve lost my mind. As I said, they’re kind of lumpy and odd. But it’s not always about looks. And with the sausage ball—it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

If you grew up in Texas or the South, then chances are you spent some time making sausage balls with a loved one as a kid. I know that I did, as my grandma and I would produce batch after batch before people came over for special occasions.

chipotle cranberry sausage balls | Homesick Texan

To prepare the basic sausage ball, you take a pound of breakfast sausage, spoonfuls of biscuit mix, and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. You mix it all together, preferably with your hands, and then form the meaty, cheesy dough into little balls. After a few minutes of baking in the oven, they’re done.

What’s interesting about them is they don’t have the texture of a meatball nor do they have the texture of a biscuit. The sausage ball occupies this strange middle ground that is known only to itself and there is really no other snack like it. If you’ve never had one, they only way to experience it is to make your own.

Now, I’m still a fan of the original recipe. Much like using Velveeta and Ro-Tel for queso, sometimes the simplest path to good eating is indeed the best. Though since it’s were about to begin the holidays and with the basic method being so malleable and open for interpretation, I’ve made a few changes that make my holiday sausage balls a little more fancy.

chipotle cranberry sausage balls | Homesick Texan

First, I’ve gotten rid of the biscuit mix. A few years ago I learned it’s not necessary, which was a revelation. Instead you can use the basic components of biscuit mix—flour, baking powder, and salt—and then, if you’re feeling extra wild, you can even make throw in some cornmeal, a trick I recently learned from Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook.

Also, you can make your own breakfast sausage. Of course, if you’re in a place with excellent country-style breakfast sausage, you may decide to skip this step. But I live in the land of links, not patties, which means I’ve been making my own breakfast sausage for years.

Because it’s the holidays, I decided to make a special-edition breakfast sausage with finely chopped cranberries and chipotle chile powder for a sweet and smoky touch. While it's not necessary, it is very good if you’re so inclined. For the cheese, I swapped out the yellow cheddar for sharp white cheddar because I love its nutty flavor. And finally, I added a bit of fresh rosemary, as its piney notes are welcome this time of year and go well with the smoky chiles.

Of course, you can craft your sausage balls any way you like since they’re extremely flexible. Perhaps you could use Mexican chorizo instead of breakfast sausage, or you may consider using pepper Jack or smoked cheddar cheese or even throwing in some diced jalapeños. Anything goes with sausage balls, which is one of the reasons why they’re so fun.

chipotle cranberry sausage balls | Homesick Texan

The important thing, however, is to make them, especially if it’s been a while since they graced your table. I know you and your loved ones will be thankful to have them in your presence again. Though you should be aware that they will go fast, so you might consider doubling the batch. People are smitten over sausage balls and as such, I’ve never met anyone who can stop at only one.

Chipotle cranberry sausage balls

Ingredients for chipotle cranberry breakfast sausage:
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cayenne

Ingredients for sausage balls:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, well chilled
2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound chipotle cranberry breakfast sausage
2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed

To make the sausage, in a large mixing bowl stir together the pork, cranberries, sage, salt, brown sugar, thyme, chipotle chile powder, nutmeg, and cayenne. To test the flavors, heat up a small skillet on medium-low heat and add smidge of vegetable oil. Add a marble-sized ball of the sausage to the skillet and heat it for about 4-5 minutes, flipping once. Turn off the heat and when cool enough to handle, taste the sausage. Make any spice adjustments as desired. The sausage can be used immediately or stored covered in the refrigerator for 4 days.

To make the sausage balls, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, rosemary, sage, salt, and cayenne until well combined. Work in the butter with a pastry blender or your hands until well distributed. Stir in the cheese, sausage, and milk, and then mix until well combined. The dough should be soft enough to form into small balls, though if it’s too dry, you can add more milk a teaspoon at a time until the dough can be easily shaped.

Scoop out a tablespoon of the dough and then roll it into a round ball. Place the balls 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sausage is cooked and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

about 56 balls

If you want the cranberry and chipotle flavors but want to make this super easy, you can use pre-made breakfast sausage and then add the diced cranberries and chipotle chile powder to the sausage ball mix.




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Unknown said...

do you use any sauce or gravy?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Unknown--I don't, as I think they're traditionally served warm on their own. That said, some people like to dip them in buttermilk dressing or honey mustard, which is good, too!

Michael said...

These are just dying for a jelly sauce like the traditional grape jelly tomato sauce. But I wonder what they'd be like with cranberry-chipotle tomato sauce instead... Hmmm...might have to try that.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Michael--Either one could be good, though they're pretty great without sauce as well.

patricia leonard-white said...

To make ahead, would you bake-freeze-rewarm, or would you freeze frozen raw balls?

Anonymous said...

These sound wonderful, except I can't eat pork, can these be made with beef or chicken?

VeggieMamma said...

Sausage balls must appear on our Christmas Eve appetizer table. My daughter says that Christmas cannot come without them. She's pretty set in her ways, so I'm not sure I could get away with this delightful version on Christmas Eve, but they look so tasty I will try them before Christmas so I can have them all to myself!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Patricia--I'd bake them first then freeze them.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Yes, chicken or turkey would be good, as would beef.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

VeggieMamma--Speaking from personal experience, if you do choose to make a separate batch, it's not difficult to polish them off on your own!

Anonymous said...

If I had a nickel for every sausage ball I made back in the day..... My family always enjoyed Ro-Tel & Velveeta for dipping with sausage balls --Christmas eve staples. Leftover RoTel dip made Christmas morning's pan of scrambled eggs so very special. Your updated version sounds delightful. Thank you! -- I'm not anonymous. I'm susie b :-))

Mike @ Optional Kitchen said...

Hold the phone: these are a Texas thing? Somehow I had to move to OHIO before I ever had a sausage ball (here they mix in sauerkraut, which is pretty grand). Thanks for letting me know what to bring home to the Texas family this year -- gotta help fill in our [apparent] Texas gaps :)

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Susie B--Wow! I've never heard of anyone dipping sausage balls into queso but I'm definitely going to try that!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Mike--Indeed they are! And I love the Ohio addition of sauerkraut.

jen123 said...

can i omit the cornmeal and just replace it with the flour?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

jen123--Yep, just replace the 1/4 cup of cornmeal with 1/4 cup of flour.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere around 1970 I tried making these for the first time. They were a disaster - I assumed that the sausage should be cooked prior to mixing with the other ingredients. Can you just imagine the still slightly warm crumbled sausage melting the cheese and the mess that the addition of the biscuit mix made? They were even less attractive than properly made sausage balls!

May try these substituting gluten free flour and dairy free cheese. We are finding that many times, the end product is almost as good as the original, and sometimes even better. We are lucky to have very tasty substitutes these days.

Thanks for adding this to our must try list!


Julie said...

I love this twist on sausage balls! Having grown up in Texas, I'm extremely familiar - sausage balls are a must on Christmas morning, and since I've grown up and moved away, I've carried on the tradition in my own house! :)

Keith Freitag said...

So if I can get breakfast sausage in bulk at Central Market here in Houston, do I skip the entire breakfast sausage portion including cranberries or can I use the bulk sausage as the pound of pork?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Pete--That's a funny story--what a mess! And glad to know that it's just as good with gluten-free flour and dairy-free cheese.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Keith--I would skip the entire breakfast sausage step, though if you want the cranberries, you can add those since I'm assuming they're not in the breakfast sausage you purchased.

Keith Freitag said...

Lisa - sounds good. I may add the chipotle, cayenne and nutmeg to get the same flavors on top of the cranberries since it doesn't have those in the bulk sausage. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I made these over the weekend for a tree-trimming party and they were a hit! Have made the easy bisquick-sausage-cheese version in the past and people were ok with them, but nearly everyone commented on this version. I did simplify by buying breakfast sausage and adding the cranberry & chipotle powder (I couldn't really taste the cranberry). But I made the dry mixture as you posted. The addition of the corn meal created a different texture that I liked. But I think the best was the rosemary! Thanks, I may make again for another party later in the month. Linda M.

Anonymous said...

Oh and for anyone who makes them ahead - I found a trick for keeping them warm. Put a damp paper towel in your crockpot, add the sausage balls and set to the keep warm setting. You can find anything on the internet - search "re-heating sausage balls" and there were all kinds of suggestions!

patricia leonard-white said...

I made these on Thanksgiving, I am making them today for my husband's work Christmas party, and I am making them on Christmas Eve. They are absolutely perfect, and I will never make the bisquick version again. I am a late-comer to your blog but I really love it - your voice, your photography, and especially your recipes. I just bought your "Family Table" cookbook and added your other one to my Christmas wish list. :)

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