An autumn morning in the Delta is beautiful and melancholy. It’s more than the chill of the temperatures, although that’s a part of it. In early spring, the actual temperatures of a typical morning are probably the exact same degree, but the feel is something altogether different from the fall. It feels like childhood days, mornings rich with anticipation of the day’s pep rally before the home football game. The smell of the central heat clicking on in my home, one of the first times since February or March, probably adds to it…as does the smell of coffee perking, and the cotton defoliant that ag pilots spray on fields before harvesting.
I remember with great clarity one particular fall morning. It was mid-October, one of those perfect autumn days that is so gorgeous it makes you hurt. The sky was incredibly blue, the temperature nice and crisp – my idea of the perfect day, in other words. I was in the kitchen preparing sausage balls for a catering client. She and her family were traveling to Ole Miss for the ballgame and tailgating in the Grove. It was morning, the windows open in the kitchen and the little gas heater on. I do see the irony in that but I’m the type who, if I had a fireplace, would crank up the air conditioner in September in order to use it. That morning’s activities sum up all that is good and fine about the season – cool air, blue skies, football, and food.
Scrumptious little sausage balls are one of my favorite foods of fall. I always associate them with autumn and rarely, if ever, make them any other time of year.
There are surely as many versions for it as there are for Chicken and Rice Casserole. My favorite version is garlic-laden and spicy:
Sausage Cheese Balls
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces grated sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound sausage (hot or mild)- can use turkey sausage
2 ½ cups baking mix
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 good dash Worcestershire sauce
Combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed. You may as well go ahead and use your hands – they’re really easier to mix up that way. Shape the dough into small balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
At this point, sausage balls can be baked immediately or frozen.
To freeze, place baking sheet with sausage balls in the freezer for at least an hour. Write baking instructions and date in permanent marker on a zip-top bag and place the frozen sausage balls in the bag. Don’t forget this step! I cannot tell you how incredibly efficient it makes you feel when you pull that bag from the freezer and see neatly penned instructions, written in your very own handwriting.
When ready for a few, simply remove however many you’d like from the bag and bake on an ungreased baking sheet; no need to thaw first.
To bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
NOTE: I usually double this recipe, using one pound hot sausage and one pound mild sausage. However, I learned the hard way that my KitchenAid bowl can’t handle that much dough, so I mix up two batches. Cleaning sausage and cheese bits from all corners of the kitchen was fun only once.
Recipe excerpted from More Culinary Kudzu.