|The tale of two sausage balls|
By Lisa Boykin Batts Times Life Editor
I don’t remember the first time Mama made sausage balls for our family Christmas Eve party, but I do recall the conversation when she realized she made them differently from everyone else by browning the sausage before she formed the balls.
It’s probably been 40 years. We were standing in the kitchen and she was holding an index card with the recipe written out in her handwriting.
"If I don’t brown the sausage first, it might not get cooked all the way,” she said.
She never made sausage balls with uncooked sausage. Instead, she cooked a pan of Bass Farm sausage (it was always Bass Farm, green package), drained it, and formed her sausage balls with Bisquick and sharp Cheddar cheese. Then she baked them or froze them for later use.
On Christmas Eve, right before we started opening presents, she’d put them in the oven. Before long, we could smell them. Oh my, what a scrumptious smell.
They’d be added to the party table, along with nutty fingers, salted pecans, a variety of cookies and fudge that family members prepared, all washed down with an icy fruit punch. No matter if the temperature was 20 degrees outside, we all insisted on the punch! (Still do in fact.)
Mama’s sausage balls were always a favorite of mine. They are almost like a biscuit and are so good at breakfast as well as parties. I love eating them while they are still piping hot and the cheese is gooey.
That’s not to say I don’t love them the other way as well!
Several years ago, our dear neighbor Betty Hayes shared a plate of sausage balls. They were made the traditional way, formed with uncooked sausage before baking. They were very small, and some of the edges were crisp from the cooked cheese. My daughter immediately devoured them and begged for more. The secret was out; she knew there was a second way to cook sausage balls.
Anna requests that I make our neighbor’s sausage ball recipe often. We don’t just make them for parties, we often make a batch and freeze the bulk of the recipe in small batches for breakfast. I’ve done this with Mama’s version of the recipe more times than I can count. For Mama’s version, I freeze them without cooking the sausage balls first. With the more traditional method, I cook them and then freeze them.
I cannot tell you what a treat it is to have my mama’s sausage ball recipe for breakfast. I put the sausage balls in the toaster oven when I wake up, and before I know it, the wonderful smell of Christmas Eve at Mama and Daddy’s house fills my own kitchen! Love it.
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1 pound of bulk sausage, mild or hot (I often use breakfast turkey sausage instead of pork sausage)
1 pound grated Cheddar cheese or 4 cups (grate your own if possible rather than using pre-packaged grated cheese)
3 cups Bisquick
Mama’s recipe: Brown sausage. Drain fat. Once sausage has cooled enough to handle, pour into large bowl and add other ingredients. Use your hands to mix until combined. Form into balls a little smaller than a walnut.
If it’s difficult to form a ball, hold the batter in your hands for a few seconds as you are making each ball. The warmth of your hands will help the mixture stay together.
Place sausage balls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes. Can also freeze sausage balls before cooking for later use. Mama always froze them in single layers in plastic containers, separating the layers with wax paper.
Makes around 30.
Traditional recipe: Mix uncooked sausage, cheese and biscuit mix in large bowl. Use your hands to mix until combined. Form into balls about half the size of a walnut. My family likes them very small.
Place on baking sheet (I don’t use cooking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until browned and cooked through.
Makes around 60.