Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sausage balls: quick breakfast, tasty snack or soup accompaniment, and, um, spur-of-the-moment chicken treat?

A Christmas gift this year included homemade pork sausage. The presenter gave it already frozen in pint-size glass jars and we knew from past years' batches it would be perfectly seasoned with a good balance between lean and fat. In other words, a perfect sausage for making breakfast patties, sausage brunch casseroles or quiches, combining with ground venison for sloppy joes or meatloaf and for making not-too-greasy sausage balls. Yesterday was the day for sausage balls.

Serve them warm from the oven with a flavorful mustard (we like Nectarine Mustard) for dipping and they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days -- reheating as needed in oven or microwave. Also great for freezing, either before or after baking. I rarely freeze before baking simply because my sausage is often frozen before preparation but either way works great.

A few sausage balls make a great quick breakfast with a glass of juice or bowl. And always a good choice for a snack -- they often show up at parties because everyone likes them and they're so easy to have on hand in the freezer. They can even serve as a chicken treat as happened today when I was caught outside by our backyard girls without any readily accessible treats.The chickens, particularly Turkey, the large reddish-brown turken gobbling down her snack, are as bad as the dog when it comes to begging for a treat. Heck, Turkey doesn't even beg, she demands. Failure to produce a treat often leads to her jumping up to sit on your arm or shoulder as she squawks her frustration at being denied a treat. So today, in the drizzling icy rain, I didn't want to get into a discussion of poultry nutrition with her so I gave in and shared a bit of sausage ball I was munching on while gathering eggs. Madame President, the silver-laced Wyandotte, was quick to share, too. Dolly and Jabber, the white hen, even managed to get a bite. Seemed to rank right up there as treats go.

Yesterday DS did the mixing by hand but if you don't have a child around who likes to mash things together when cooking, just use an electric mixer on low or a few quick pulses of a food processor to do the messy job. I've also heard of cooks putting the ingredients in a large plastic bag and kneading it thoroughly from the outside of the bag. If you use a cookie scoop to from the sausage balls, you never need get your hands gooey.

Bisquick is a traditional ingredient in the simple sausage ball recipe but we mainly eat fresh ground whole wheat so I tweaked the recipe as usual. Plus, I think the whole wheat flour adds a richer, nutty flavor to the mix. And the butter is optional -- the sausage usually provides plenty of fat without the added shortening. (I didn't use it for this batch and can't tell any difference in texture or taste.) If you do use Bisquick, just substitute 2 cups of the regular or low-fat version for the first four ingredients listed below.

Sausage Balls

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons butter, lard or shortening
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, diced (optional)
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
up to 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut fat into flour with pastry blender as when making biscuits. Add other ingredients except milk and stir to blend. May use mixer or food processor as described above. Sometimes it's easier to add sausage in small bits and then stir in shredded cheese last. YMMV. Add up to 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk slowly to mixture to help bind ingredients.

Form batter into small balls, no larger than 1-inch in diameter. Place on baking sheet with low sides. If you're not sure of the low fat content of your sausage, line baking sheet with aluminum foil and turn up foil edges to help contain grease that may melt from balls while baking.

Bake at 350F. for 15-20 minutes. This makes about 3-4 dozen sausage balls at 1". Mine are soft when I take them out but upon breaking one open, the sausage has changed color and the dough is similar to the inside of a biscuit. If baked too long, they will become hard and almost rock-like after cooling.

For more good ideas (but maybe not chicken snack recipes) check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammy's Recipes.


Linda said...

I have a very similar recipe, but I haven't made it in a while. Thanks for the reminder.

Jerri - Simply Sweet Home said...

This is one of my favorites. I haven't had them in forever!