As I get older, with all the hustle and bustle of what we know and experience as Christmas, I appreciate the memories I have from years past. Just a few days ago, I came across an old comic “The Family Circus” that was shared on a Facebook page. The drawing depicted the mother and father in one room looking into the next where the Christmas tree was displayed. As they watched their four children open their Christmas gifts, their thoughts were depicted below as “They won’t know till they’re grown, but their BEST gifts are the memories they’re making.” This brought a tear to my eye as I think of my parents, as well as family members and friends who are no longer with us to share the Christmas season. Some of the people who have come to mind recently are Bobby and Peggy Jones.
photo courtesy of Julie Jones McLeod
Among the friends Mama and Daddy had were Bobby and Peggy Jones. Growing up, I knew Bobby as the Postmaster in Lakeland and Peggy as a nurse at Moody Air Force Base. Their children, Joy, Henry Will, Bob and Julie were close in age to Paula and I and attended First Baptist Church with us. The Jones’ were among the usual cast of characters that came to many a dinner party that Mama threw. In a project I complete several years ago, I compiled movie footage that Daddy shot on a camera and put it to music. Among one of the scenes featured Bobby, Peggy, Joy and Henry Will and showed Peggy making sandwiches.
As I think of Christmas, Christmas parties, and more importantly, food at Christmas parties, many of these featured Bourbon Balls. I was recently reminded of these when a customer at work brought in a batch of brownies made with bourbon. Peggy’s daughter Joy submitted the recipe I will feature here in the Flatlanders Cookbook.
For someone like myself who rarely consumes alcoholic beverages, going to the local liquor store can be daunting. I visited Madison Beverage Warehouse in my neighborhood and asked for a good bourbon recommendation. General Manager Brent Higgs suggested the Four Roses special barrel. He explained he and others on staff there visited the distillery and chose that particular barrel as their top choice and an official “Staff Selection”. What I don’t use in this recipe will be used in my Bourbon Milk Punch I serve at Christmas.
Certain recipes, cooking techniques and ingredients don’t stand the test of time like others. For example, this recipe calls for 4x Sugar. To decipher a little, what is intended here is granulated sugar that has been ground four times to more of a powder. As a child I remember Mama buying 4x, 6x and 10x sugar. In preparing for this entry, my local Kroger did not have anything other than regular granulated sugar or 10x confectioners sugar.
At a local Publix I purchased “superfine” sugar by Domino. I have used this in the past to make lemonade and liked how it offered a quicker dissolve. For the preparation of this recipe, I pulled out my VitaMix that I have owned for almost 20 years (I can count on one hand the times I have used it, including here) . It came with a container to use for dry ingredients as well as for liquid. I ran the Superfine sugar in the VitaMix for 30 to 45 seconds until the sugar was more of a powdery texture but not as much as you would find in 10x. If you don’t own a VitaMix and want to try your blender or food processor, give it a go. Otherwise, use 10x sugar to save some time.
The original recipe stated a yield of 4 1/2 dozen balls. However, my recipe yielded 3 dozen. I used a stainless-steel cookie dough scoop to get a more precise amount for the balls and then rolled slightly in my hand before rolling in the sugar. This is also what I refer to as a make-ahead recipe. These bourbon balls need to “ripen” several days before serving. I would suggest make ahead at least 3-4 days before intending to serve.
Bourbon Balls (makes 3 dozen balls)
1 package (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
2 ½ cups vanilla wafers, finely crushed (about 5 cups)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
powdered sugar, for dusting (see note)
Melt chocolate chips in double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Remove pan from cooktop and stir in sugar and corn syrup. Blend in bourbon. In a separate bowl, combine crushed vanilla wafers and walnuts and mix well. Add to this your mixture of chocolate, sugar, corn syrup and bourbon and mix well. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar to coat completely. Place in single layers in a covered container; separating each layer using waxed or parchment paper and allow to ripen for several days before serving.
Note: The original recipe calls for 4x confectioners or powdered sugar. I was not able to locate 4x confectioners sugar as 10x is what is currently available. I used Superfine sugar, which is designed for beverages or anything that you desire a quicker dissolve, and processed it for 30-45 seconds to yield a more powdery texture but not as powdery as 10x.