126. Balls–Because Who Wants a Square Meal?

26 Mar

Oreo balls--Not necessarily round.

Oreo balls–Not necessarily round.

In other parts of the globe, these delicacies might be called hors d’oeuvres, bon bons, truffles, and the like. In the South, we call ‘em like we see ‘em: Balls.

The selection of stuff Southerners will roll up into a ball and pass around to friends and relations grows larger by the day. Ten years ago, I’d never imagined one could transform broccoli into a edible sphere that would become a potluck staple. What’s next, kale?

Love at first sausage ball.

Love at first sausage ball.

Much like Southern salads, balls come in two separate, yet equally delicious, groups: sweet and savory. A few of the treats refuse to take sides, so I’ll henceforth refer to them as “swavory.”

Seeing as I like to save the best for last, we’ll start with savory. In this group you’ll find meatballs, sausage balls (yes, sausage is a meat, but these are two entirely different animals, so to speak), spinach balls, crab balls, ham balls (not to be confused with ham rolls), fried macaroni and cheese balls, and the dreaded cafeteria staple, cod balls. I found a recipe in the Bells Best III cookbook for Curried Chicken Balls, which includes mayonnaise, cream cheese, chutney, and flaked coconut. I’m guessing the next time that particular contributor offered to bring a dish to a party, she was told, “We could really use some ice. And maybe a couple of 2 liters.”

3168885199_b4cf60e58f_mI haven’t yet mentioned cheese balls because they represent a whole subcategory of savory. These usually feature cream cheese as the main ingredient–sometimes balanced out with shredded cheddar–embellished with one or more of the following add ins: worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Tabasco sauce, Lipton onion soup mix, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, minced onions, diced peppers, cayenne, and paprika. Once the desired ingredients are mixed together and shaped into a ball, the whole thing is covered in one of two things: chopped pecans or thin-sliced corned/dried beef.

I’ve run across a few cheese ball recipes that feature pineapple, which fit in the swavory category along with such creations as: popcorn balls, and…well, nothing else comes to mind at the moment. Can anybody help me out here?

Goodness gracious, great balls of coconut!

Goodness gracious, great balls of coconut!

The sweet ball category breaks into two subsections: chocolate covered and not. Amongst the former you’ll find: peanut butter balls, coconut balls, Oreo cookie balls, cake balls, and regular old chocolate balls. The latter group includes: rum balls, bourbon balls, amaretto balls, teetotaller balls for Baptists (just kidding!), pecan balls, date balls, and peanut butter balls (sans chocolate, but why?). Any or all of these can be rolled in coconut, though some probably take to powdered sugar better. Speaking of which, one could make the argument that given their shape donut holes ought to be referred to as balls. I, myself, am not planning to start a petition, but if there’s one floating around, I’ll sign it. Just don’t ask me for a contribution.

Why are Southerners so smitten with balls? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe the bite-size portion makes them easier to eat. However, I’ve yet to run across a Southerner who finds eating to be complicated in any way whatsoever. Ok, perhaps what to, but certainly not how to.

Translation: You're not worth the trouble.

Translation: You’re not worth the trouble.

One thing’s for sure: making stuff into balls doesn’t simplify the operation. Quite the contrary. How much easier would it be to toss some pre-cubed cheese on a plate and call it a day? Or to frost a couple of layers of cake as opposed to dipping a couple dozen in temperamental chocolate? Scientific answer: A lot!

I can think of only two reasons why Southerners go to the trouble: 1. Balls are cute, making for a more-attractive dessert table and 2. We love you. We really love you.

Growing up, one of the highlights of Christmas for me was enjoying the bountiful harvest of my mom’s annual candy crop. English toffee, pecan pralines, white fudge with candied fruit, haystacks, and my sister’s favorite, coconut balls. Once Mom got to where she couldn’t make the candy anymore, well, she didn’t stop, but she pared down the list considerably. Coconut balls were the first to get their walking papers.

One down, 870 to go!

One down, 870 to go!

After a few ball-free years, I decided to valiantly pick up the baton and produce some coconut balls. My reasoning was: A. I love my sister and B. how hard could they be? Seventeen hours into the process (give or take), my mindset had shifted to A. not that much and B. aaaaacccckkkk! That was my first and last attempt to visit that particular torture chamber. However, if you are more patient than I, you’ll find them worth the trouble. After all, in the words of the Steve Miller band: “you got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven.”

What are some of your favorite balls? Please do tell!

Coconut Balls
2 lbs. Confectioner’s sugar
1 can coconut (16 oz.)
1 stick paraffin
1 large pkg. Chocolate chips
3 sticks butter
1 can Eagle brand
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Combine sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and coconut in large bowl. Melt butter and pour over mixture and mix. Add pecans. Chill for at least 3 to 4 hours. Melt paraffin in double boiler and add chocolate chips. Stir until all are dissolved. Roll candy into balls. Dip into chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Note: As usual, the ingredients and directions are a little vague. Use your best judgement. Seeing as folks don’t enjoy the delightful flavor of paraffin as much as they used to, I’d recommend locating some high-quality chocolate melts. In a pinch, you can add about a tablespoon of shortening or vegetable oil per package of chocolate chips to thin the chocolate for easier dipping.

Oh, and one trick my sister and I learned this year: Don’t waste money on one of those fancy chocolate dipping utensils. Just break off the middle two tines of a plastic fork, and you’re good to go!

Photo Credits: Oreo balls by This Year’s Love, Flickr Creative Commons; Sausage Balls by Ezra Pound Cake; cheese ball with crackers by Adrianne Lacy, Flickr Creative Commons; coconut date balls by Christaface, Flickr Creative Commons;

14 Responses to “126. Balls–Because Who Wants a Square Meal?”

  1. Kasia March 26, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    I loved this! So true. Every year I swear I’ll never make cake balls ever again. But a year passes and I think, “But everyone loves them. They’re so pretty. I get so many compliments, and they are good. It won’t take as long this time, it won’t be as bad.” And then the love-hatred cycle repeats!

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      I am the exact same way with Christmas cookies! I don’t know how I continue to trick myself into thinking that I can magically get them done in less than three days.

  2. DessertForTwo March 26, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Oh, Kim! You say it so well! We love balls!

    I made pumpkin bourbon balls for my site, and since they’re a small batch, you won’t want to kill yourself at the end of the ordeal.
    I also made red velvet cake balls. And as I was crumbling up a perfectly gorgeous cake, I thought to myself “why are you doing this?” And I realized: it’s because they’re cute. And no one wants a big slice of cake. They feel so dainty popping a ball of cake into their mouth. They lasted 20 minutes at my workplace!

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Ok, I beg to differ: I want a big slice of cake! But I’m not opposed to daintily popping cake balls…especially red velvet ones. 🙂

  3. Karen Anderson March 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    They have these in Australia, only their “balls” are square. Wonder what that means? http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Lamington.htm

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      Just when I think I have heard about every variation of cake, I continue to be delightfully surprised. Thanks for the link, Karen!

  4. Betty March 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Paraffin? As in the wax your hands are dipped in pre-manicure at the spa??

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

      Yep, the very same stuff. Folks used to put it in food back in the day. Perhaps it makes your insides smooth and silky?

  5. Amy March 26, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Hey now, don’t knock the curried chicken salad balls until you’ve tried them! What’s not to love about chicken salad with a little curry, mango chutney and pecans all rolled up in some toasted coconut into a bite size ball? They go like hotcakes at parties around here in Birmingham, Alabama. If anyone wants the recipe, I’ll be happy to post.

    • Kim Holloway March 29, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      Ok, Amy, I’m busted. 🙂 If I happen to encounter these at a party, I’ll give it a try…

  6. jenniesisler March 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Bourbon balls and sausage balls make me think of my grandmother’s cooking. We never have sausage balls except at Christmas…maybe I should remedy that by making a batch….

    • Kim Holloway March 29, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      Oh, you should DEFINITELY have sausage balls more than once a year. My sister says they’re way easier to make using a KitchenAid, but then isn’t everything?

  7. geeziecreezie April 2, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Sausage balls and Oreo balls are by far the best. Followed by meatballs and cheeseballs.

    • Kim Holloway April 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      I must admit, sausage balls have almost always been at the top of my chart.

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