In partnership with Cabot Creamery Co-operative
While a cheese ball may sound like something your grandmother would serve at a cocktail party, this is actually an amazing appetizer that is especially perfect for the holiday season. Easy to make ahead of time, this recipe is chock full of bold flavors– bacon, onion, a little heat and a little sweet– and perfect served with crackers or slices of crisp apple. The addition of smoky undertones from cool smoking the cream cheese in the Traeger grill makes it extra delicious. I promise– cheese balls are cool.
An Elevated Appetizer
In the past couple months, smoked cream cheese has taken the smoking community by storm. It’s an awesome and simple way to elevate an ingredient that we often using in cooking– a block of cream cheese. By smoking it at the lowest setting in your Traeger– 160*– you are ensuring that the cheese doesn’t get too hot to melt or change consistency, but that it gets tons of amazing flavor imparted in it from Traeger’s wood fired fuel.
Wanting to take the humble block of cream cheese to the next level, I then decided to take the smoked result and mixed it with some equally awesome ingredients (think the flavors of a loaded baked potato) and mixed it up into a delectable ball.
Once formed, the ball of flavor is rolled in a heavy coating of candied pecans, parsley, bacon and poppy seeds and then refrigerated till firm. An hour or so before serving, pull it out of the fridge to let it warm up, which will make the cheese ball easier to spread and enjoy. And if your grandma asks, the cheese ball is making a comeback!
- Cabot cream cheese
- Cabot sharp cheddar cheese
- My Garlic Junkie seasoning from Spiceology
- Sour cream
- Green onions
- Gherkins or bread and butter pickles
- Pimentos or peppadew peppers
- Candied pickled jalapenos
- Candied pecans
- Poppy seeds
- Crackers and apple slices for serving
WHY COOKING THIS ON THE TRAEGER WORKS
A recent trend on the internet has been smoked cream cheese. When we first dipped into this new concoction, we kept it fairly simple by smoking the block of cream cheese and then serving it with pepper jelly. Cream cheese + pepper jelly is an amazing flavor duo. And then when you slow smoke the cream cheese in your Traeger grill, you get even more amazing flavor. Smoking it at 180* keeps the integrity of the cream cheese while imparting a lot of amazing wood fired flavor in the cheese.
For this recipe, to elevate it, we smoked the block of cream cheese first which gave it some great flavor and a little color. We also cooked the bacon on the grill, which is an amazing way to cook bacon.
Once those two ingredients are ready, everything else is done in the house. But, as you know is a habit of ours, any chance we have to cook on the Traeger, is a good excuse. So elevating the dish by smoking the cream cheese first ensured that the finished product had great flavor and stayed within our wheelhouse of cooking everything on the grill. This smoky, sweet and heat cheese ball is the perfect solution.
- Preheat your Traeger grill to 160*.
- On a small cookie sheet or piece of foil, place the unwrapped block of cream cheese.
- Score the top in a hatch-mark pattern. Then season generously with the Garlic Junkie seasoning.
- Put the cream cheese in the grill and smoke for about 2 hours.
- Once the cream cheese has smoked, remove it from the grill and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Bump up the grill temperature to 375*.
- On a foil-lined cookie sheet, spread out your bacon slices.
- Put the bacon in the grill and cook for 15-20 minutes until rendered and beginning to crisp.
- Remove from the grill and drain on paper towels. Dice finely and divide in half.
- In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, ½ of the chopped bacon, the green onions, peppers, pickles, jalapenos and sour cream.
- Using a plastic spatula, mix well until ingredients are evenly incorporated in the cream cheese.
- In a shallow bowl, combine remaining bacon, chopped candied pecans, chopped parsley and poppy seeds.
- Using gloves, divide cream cheese mixture in half and form into two balls.
- Carefully roll balls in the pecan/bacon mixture and press to coat evenly.
- Transfer each ball to a square of plastic wrap and wrap tightly in an even sphere.
- Place the balls in the fridge (in a bowl slightly larger than the ball ensures the shape will be maintained).
- Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.
- 1 hour before serving, place on a plate to bring to room temperature.
- Serve with crackers and sliced apples.
A lot of delicious dishes include cream cheese in them and you can certainly use this same technique– smoking the cream cheese before you use it in the recipe– to elevate the flavors of your dishes. For example, give my Smoked Jalapeno Popper Dip recipe a try, but smoke the cream cheese first!
Products used in this cook:
- Our family loves using Cabot Creamery Co-operative’s cream cheese and extra sharp cheddar cheeses, and they work particularly well in this kind of recipe. Not only does the quality of the cheese stand out, but the distinct and sharp flavor of the cheddar cheese comes through really well with this combination of ingredients. Not only are we using amazing ingredients in our cooking, but we are using products made by a certified B-Corp that has an intent focus on sustainability, land stewardship, and being good community citizens. As a B-Corp, Cabot Creamery Co-operative has hung their hat on being positive contributors to community and environmental problems. As an elementary teacher, getting to partner with a company like Cabot means that I’m demonstrating to my students how corporate citizenship can make a positive impact!
- Traeger grill– We use our grill to cook everything from steaks and roasts to dessert and sides. It is versatile and imparts some great wood-fired flavor in everything we cook!
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Smoky Sweet & Heat Cabot Cheese Ball
- Traeger grill
- Small cookie sheet & aluminum foil
- Bowl and rubber spatula
- Shallow bowl or dish
- Plastic wrap
- 1 block Cabot cream cheese
- ½ block Cabot sharp cheddar cheese finely grated
- 2 tbsp Garlic Junkie seasoning from Spiceology
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 6 slices bacon
- 2 green onions finely diced
- 1 tbsp gherkins or bread and butter pickles finely diced
- 1 tbsp pimentos or peppadew peppers finely diced
- 1 tsp Candied pickled jalapenos finely diced
- ½ cup candied pecans finely chopped
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 3 tbsp poppy seeds
- Crackers and apple slices for serving
- Preheat your Traeger grill to 160F
- Using a small cookie sheet or piece of foil, place the unwrapped block of cream cheese in the center
- Score the top of the cream cheese in a hatch-mark pattern
- Season the cream cheese generously with the Garlic Junkie seasoning
- Place the cream cheese in the grill and smoke it for about 2 hours
- Once the cream cheese has smoked, remove it from the grill and allow to cool to room temperature
- Bump up the grill temperature to 375F
- Arrange bacon slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet
- Put the baon in the grill and cook for 15-20 minutes until rendered and beginning to crisp
- Remove the bacon from the grill and drain on paper towels before dicing it finely and setting half aside
- Combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, ½ of the chopped bacon, the green onions, peppers, pickles, jalapenos and sour cream in a bowl
- Using a plastic spatula, mix well until ingredients are evenly distributed
- In a shallow bowl or dish, combine the remaining bacon, pecans, parsley and poppy seeds
- Using disposable gloves, divide the cream cheese mixture in half and form it into two balls
- Carefully roll the balls in the pecan/bacon mixture and press to coat thoroughly
- Transfer each ball to a square of plastic wrap and wrap tightly in a smooth sphere
- Place the balls in the fridge and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight
- Before serving, place the ball on a plate to bring to room temperature
- Serve with crackers and sliced apples