Queenie Cooks: (No-Pumpkin) Pumpkin Cheese Ball

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: November 21, 2019 | 8:00 a.m.

You know how some people, as the leaves start to turn and the food world becomes obsessed with pumpkin everything, begin frantically searching for the perfect recipe for those bright orange gourds that are so popular at Halloween? Well, this isn’t it. In fact, there’s not a speck of anything remotely pumpkin flavored involved. But I guarantee you that this cute little pumpkin cheeseball, besides being absolutely delicious, is destined to be the hit of any soiree this fall, including your Thanksgiving feast.

I decided to share it a tiny bit early so that you’d have time to make one before the big day and see for yourself that it’s definitely worthy of gracing your traditional holiday feast, and I predict that it will become an instant tradition at your house, just like I expect it to be at mine. And besides being so tasty and really beautiful, it’s stunningly simple to make! I promise!

One secret is that I coated it with extra crispy cheese puffs, because they’re easy to find, the color is perfect, they’re very forgiving as you form your little pumpkin cheeseball, they make it look a bit like those cute bumpy pumpkins that are so popular now, they cover up any uneven bits you might have from forming the ball/pumpkin and, ok, I just like the way they taste! I’m sure you could use the hot jalapeno ones that are out now if you wanted something spicier, or any orange-colored cheese puffs should work. The crunch makes for a nice, varied texture in each bite, plus you avoid the potential for having guests with nut allergies having issues with the more traditional crushed pecan coatings that I generally like to use on cheese balls. I do recommend adding the crusty part fairly close to serving time, as they won’t be nearly as crisp if they sit in the fridge for hours before serving.

Oh, and speaking of the fridge, If you’re making this cheese ball in advance, you’ll want to take it out far enough ahead of time for it to reach room temperature before serving. Why? Good question. Here’s the thing – I LOOOOOVE the taste of extra sharp cheddar cheese. And more traditional cheese balls generally have a greater proportion of cream cheese in them so that they’ll be easy to dip into with a cracker. I did use a fine grater so that the cheddar bits would easily disappear into the mixture. But even so, there’s enough of that cheddar packed into this – both for the flavor and the color, actually – that you’re going to have a firmer than usual, less creamy texture. I recommend serving it with a spoon so that your guests can dip off a bit and put it on their plate or cracker for that reason, though I generally do that anyway.

That extra sharp cheddar gives it such a robust but not overpowering burst of flavor that when I shared my test one with some friends last week on election night, it got nothing but raves! You can do the whole thing in about 20 minutes, but it looks like you worked on it for hours – another thing to love about this little jewel! And the only ingredients besides the cheddar and the cream cheese are chopped fresh chives (which I’m still getting from my herb garden out back!) and coarse ground black pepper to taste.

If you want a softer, creamier texture, you’ll have to sacrifice a little of the flavor and add a little more cream cheese, but that’s another reason to make one up this week so you’ll know before Thanksgiving if you really want to do that. Oh! And the cute little stem that makes it look so much like a real pumpkin? That’s the best part! Just look for a bell pepper with a long stem, cut that out of the top of the pepper, and stick it down in the cheese ball just before serving! How simple is that?!?!? I splurged almost $3 on one orange bell pepper for this prototype, because I wanted to make sure that it would match the cheese ball, but I realized when I was actually making this that if you just cut away all the pepper around the stem a 99 cent green pepper would work just fine. You’re welcome!

The other thing about the pepper is that you can slice that into nice strips to go with your crackers as “holders” for your cheesy deliciousness on the way to your mouth. It really is easy-easy to make and it truly does taste THAT good. I promise! In fact, you might want to make a couple of them so you can use one – or several, maybe in different sizes? – as a centerpiece, and have one out for guests to nibble on while they wait for the turkey and fixings!

Do yourself a favor and buy good, block extra-sharp cheddar and grate it yourself for the fullest burst of flavor – not to mention it will also be more moist as pre-grated cheese tends to dry out a bit. I have no problem with pre-grated cheese in some things – especially if you’re adding mayonnaise or sour cream or melting it – but for this, it’s worth the little extra time. If you just don’t have the time or inclination to grate it yourself, be sure to buy the finest-grated cheese you can find.

Oh, and speaking of melting (or any other cooking process) – there’s another plus. With this recipe, there is none! You just mix together your cheeses, chives, and ground pepper (I used my mixer, but your hands might be better as the warmth would probably make the cheeses blend together more quickly), shape it all into a ball, mash down the top a bit, carve the little pumpkin creases down the side with a small spoon or a butter knife, coat the whole thing with the crushed cheese puffs (a few bursts in your food processor take care of that part nicely), plop the stem on top, and take a bow! Enjoy!

Queenie Cooks: (No-Pumpkin) Pumpkin Cheese Ball

  • 3 cups (approximately) orange cheese puffs – ½ bag, crushed (I used food processor)
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup (more or less, to taste) chopped chives
  • freshly ground black pepper – no salt
  • 1 bell pepper with a long stem
  • Crackers, for serving

Finely grind cheese puffs in food processor, then pour on baking sheet with sides.

Mix together grated cheddar, cream cheese, chives, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper in a large bowl. Mold into a ball and press the top flat with the palm of your hand. Carve lines down the sides to resemble a pumpkin with a small spoon or the rounded edge of a butter knife.
Carefully roll cheese ball in cheese puff crumbs until thoroughly coated, then remove entire bell pepper stem with a paring knife. Push stem down into top center of cheeseball. Serve on a plate with crackers and slices of the bell pepper.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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