It’s Time for Sausage Balls!
Sometimes, the simple things in life are the most satisfying, like balls. Sausage balls, that is. These are the kind of balls you can eat any time of day. They’re as welcome at breakfast as they are at a fancy cocktail party. Everyone loves these balls, except for vegetarians, who don’t care for meaty balls. Oh, I’m sorry, were you under the drastically mistaken impression I was a mature adult? Not sure where you got that.
Most Southerners are as familiar with sausage balls as they are with Bloody Mary brunches, tailgating and easy ‘70s-style appetizers. The recipe is simple: sausage, cheese and Bisquick. Really, you can’t go wrong. And with a little attention to detail, you can go oh-so-right. I’ve always been a fan of sausage balls. In fact, I’ve never had any I didn’t like. I decided to challenge myself to a best sausage balls ever contest. Since I was the only participant, I got to make up the rules. There were two:
One, try to use local ingredients; two, make really tasty balls.
I started with the most obvious ingredient — sausage — and went straight to the source.
Emile Defelice, owner of Caw Caw Creek Pastured Pork and pig farmer extraordinaire, recommended Miss Bertie’s Pride Ground Sausage, available at Rosewood Market or through Emile himself at the All Local Farmers’ Market. The sausage is flavored with just the right touch of red pepper and sage. Also at Rosewood I found Happy Cow Creamery Cheddar from Pelzer, S.C. They offer cheddar aged for one, three or seven years. I sent my husband to get some and he came back with fat-free processed cheese food, cheddar flavor. It was one of those moments where you realize your husband doesn’t know you at all. We are now looking for a good marriage counselor. Feel free to make suggestions.
I returned the processed cheese food to the store and exchanged it for Happy Cow Cheddar, at twice the price. It was now clear to me why my husband had chosen the fat-free, processed cheese food. I guess the fat costs extra, but it is well worth it. Frankly, I would have gone for the cheese aged just one or three years, but they only had the more mature and pricier seven. I was thrilled with the sharp cheddar and in the end, $10 is not
much for locally made, totally amazing cheddar cheese. So just go for it.
I found biscuit mix by Charleston-based Gullah Gourmet at Simply Savory on Devine Street. According to the label, the mix yields biscuits just like my mama’s. This would be a shame, since hers were from a package and usually burned. I trusted they were referring to someone else’s mama and used the mix, which was excellent. So, ready to make sausage balls? Let’s go!
Ultimate Balls, Sausage Style
In a bowl, thoroughly mix the following:
One pound Miss Bertie’s Pride Ground Sausage. The package at Rosewood was a pound and a half. I saved the half-pound for a pancake breakfast.
4 cups shredded cheddar, aged seven years, from Happy Cow Creamery. This was about a pound of cheese.
2 cups (one package) “Ya Mama’s Buscut Mix” by Gullah Gourmet. (Incidentally, that is not a typo. That’s how they spell it.)
I recommend using plastic gloves to mix the ingredients and handle the balls, because you don’t want your hands to get all greasy. This combination is very hard to remove from underneath the fingernails. The size of the balls is up to you. I thought I preferred bigger balls, about two inches in diameter, but as I experimented with dozens of balls, I found I preferred slightly smaller ones, about one inch in diameter. One-inch balls are bite-sized and easier to eat. And eat them you will — each Sausage Ball tastes like an entire sausage biscuit, without all the crumbs.
Place the rounded balls on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil and cook them for about 15 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven. Let them cool a little before transferring them to a paper towel, which will soak up some of the grease. Overly greasy balls are a travesty.
This recipe makes four to six dozen balls, depending on your size preference, so you might want to freeze some for later. They hold up nicely when thawed and reheated.
Sausage balls are like pizza: always good. And with South Carolina’s own superior ingredients, they are even better. But be prepared: When you whip out these balls at a party, your guests will go nuts.