Greetings from South Carolina, y’all! Since I flew home, the last few days have been jam-packed with last-minute shopping, hanging out with my niece and cousins, and of course, spending every possible moment in Mama’s kitchen baking holiday treats – both classics and new recipes! Mama and Daddy get to be my guinea pigs for everything, so rest assured there’s plenty of quality control. It’s been a wonderful trip home so far! My first day back we ran into two different cousins at Walmart. 🙂 My little three year-old niece even spent the last four nights here at my parents house. It’s funny how children can put things into perspective for us. They see the world in black and white – not much gray area. Maybe we just overcomplicate everything as adults? Nonetheless, let’s talk about one of the old classics which always make an appearance every Christmas: sausage balls!!
In the South, if you ever find yourself at a social gathering without any sausage balls in sight (or cheese straws, for that matter) then it’s time to reevaluate your social circle. Sausage balls are an integral part of the Southern Christmas experience. They are incredibly easy to make – it’s really just Bisquick (more on this later), bulk breakfast sausage, and extra sharp cheddar cheese. These three ingredients come together and form something really special. In fact, the tricky part with this recipe is eating ONLY one. I swear it’s impossible.
The secret to my sausage balls is the country-style pork sausage from Cone’s Meat & Farm in my hometown of Ridge Spring, SC. Don’t bother googling it because there’s no real website. However, this little meat market is totally legit, and Mr. Bobby still uses the same recipe his parents created when they opened the store back in 1938. Both my sister and I worked there in high school and the first few years of college. Despite being a small-town Mom & Pop shop, people come from all across the Southeast (and Northeast!) to get some of Clyde Cone’s sinfully delicious concoctions – fresh sausage, hash, and liver pudding. Fortunately, every time I come home or my family visits, I get to restock my freezer full of sausage and country ham. With that said, if you don’t live in the Central Savannah River Area or Lowcountry, you can use your favorite country-style pork sausage, such as Jimmy Dean.
You need to use pork sausage for sausage balls. Chicken and turkey sausage simply do not have enough fat in them to yield the right texture. Pork sausage has just the right amount of fat to soak up the Bisquick without turning out dry or crumbly. Be sure and use breakfast sausage or country-style sausage, not Italian sausage.
As for Bisquick, y’all know I normally turn my nose up to stuff like that. However, I have tried making them using different flours and they lacked the texture that Bisquick gives them. I use the regular Bisquick in the yellow box, but the heart-healthy Bisquick (usually in the white box) works perfectly as well.
Annnd then there’s the cheese. We are cheese snobs in my family. Sorry, Kraft and store-brands, but you have no place in sausage balls! Without sounding all Ina Garten-ish, I want to stress the importance of using high-quality extra sharp cheddar. Cheaper brands tend to be more oily which makes for a greasy sausage ball. If available in your area, I highly recommend Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. It is incredibly sharp and borderline rank with a nice, creamy bite. Back in Phoenix, I use Tillamook Extra Sharp from Oregon, and it’s just as amazing. And if you are in a much higher income bracket than myself and want to totally splurge, definitely buy Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar. This stuff is simply amazing. The Beecher’s store is right by Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, but you can find it at most specialty (read: pretentious) food shops, or you can purchase online. Tragically, the store was closed when I tried to visit in Seattle.
Six paragraphs for a three-ingredient recipe? Yes ma’am. Down South, we take our sausage balls as seriously as we take our college football. Did I mention Clemson is #1 right now? Of course, I’ll always root for the Gamecocks! Y’all ready to put a little south in your mouth now?
1 lb. of country-style or breakfast-style pork sausage
2 1/2 cups Bisquick
3 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.**
- Measure sausage, Bisquick, and grated cheddar into a large mixing bowl all together.
- Using your hands, combine ingredients until they are completely mixed together. The mixture will be slightly crumbly; be sure to incorporate all the Bisquick and grated cheese. It takes a few minutes; be patient!
- Once combined, roll walnut-sized balls in your hands and place on a baking sheet covered with wax paper or silicon baking mats.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes (depending on size) or until slightly golden brown. Immediately scoop onto a paper-towel lined container or plate.
- I take them out the oven before they are fully golden brown so they remain soft for several days without drying out.
They can be stored at room-temperature in an air-tight container for 4-5 days, if they last that long!
**Tip: ingredients mix together much better at room temperature. If you have the time, remove your sausage and cheese from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you plan on mixing everything.
Merry Christmas ya’ filthy animals….and a Happy New Year.
And don’t ever forget, no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits…