As I mentioned in a previous post, “Two Favorite Holiday Bar Cookies,” many holiday memories are linked to certain foods and traditions associated with those foods. One of my favorite Christmas memories is connected with Cheese Balls. For many years, during the Christmas season, my Dad made Cheese Balls, rolled them in chopped nuts, topped each one with a maraschino cherry and wrapped them in plastic wrap. He’d load them into his station wagon to deliver his gifts to various friends and relatives. I loved to tag along with him on these trips. He would give each person a Cheese Ball accompanied with a box of Captain’s Wafers, because he thought the Cheese Ball mixture tasted best on Captain’s Wafers! I always enjoyed being with my Dad and I loved to watch him demonstrate his love, friendship and generosity to others when he presented them with their annual Cheese Ball and Captain’s Wafers!
Rum Raisin Cheese Ball
The Cheese Balls my Dad made were savory, containing port wine cheese and deviled ham. The Cheese Ball I would like to share with you in this post is a “sweet” Cheese Ball – one with raisins, nuts and mini chocolate chips! I acquired this recipe when I was working in a hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, and our Food and Nutrition Department was asked to prepare it for a hospital fund-raising event. It was so good it was difficult to stop “sampling” it!
It is best to make Rum Raisin Cheese Balls a day ahead to give the flavors time to mingle together well. If you’re not a fan of rum, you can still make this Cheese Ball by using warm water or other flavorings to plump up the raisins.
To begin, the raisins are allowed to soak in rum for one and one-half hours to plump them up. (By the way, I prefer golden raisins but the others work fine.)
Assemble the other ingredients while the raisins are plumping – the three packages of cream cheese need time out of the refrigerator to come to a soft consistency for easier mixing.
The nuts and mini semisweet chocolate chips are measured and set aside until time to join the softened cream cheese in the mixer.
After the raisins are plump, drain the rum (or other liquid) off the raisins. I find it’s easiest to just pour them into a strainer for this step. If not well-drained, the raisins will make the Cheese Ball runny. Add all the ingredients into a mixer bowl and mix until all the ingredients are combined well. Turn the mixture out onto a piece of waxed paper and shape it into a ball.
Place nuts on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and roll the ball through the nuts to coat the ball. If there are “bald” areas, simply press some chopped nuts there until the outside surface of the ball is covered in nuts.
Cover the Cheese Ball in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator, preferably for 24 hours.To serve, add a maraschino cherry on top (just like Dad) and place on a serving platter. Surround the Rum Raisin Cheese Ball with gingersnaps or other favorite cookies.
The Printable Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 cup rum (or warm water or other flavorings)
- 3 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup toasted pecans plus 1 cup pecans for covering the cheese ball
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips (or morsels)
- Place raisins in rum to soak for an hour and a half.
- Allow cream cheese to soften outside the refrigerator.
- Drain raisins in a strainer.
- Add cream cheese, raisins, 3/4 cup nuts, and mini chocolate chips to a mixer bowl.
- Mix ingredients until combined well.
- Turn cream cheese mixture out onto waxed paper and shape into a ball.
- Put remaining nuts onto waxed paper or plastic wrap and roll the ball through the nuts until the ball is covered with nuts. Press nuts onto any areas that were bare.
- Cover ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow flavors to mingle.
- Serve on a platter surrounded with gingersnaps.
- I prefer golden raisins but others will work just as well.
I love various and assorted crafts and this year I actually took 2 jewelry-making classes. In my next post, I’d like to share information on how to make Candy Cane Earrings, a great last-minute gift idea that crafters can make for their friends!
Remember to Savor the Flavor!
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