Visions of Bourbon Balls Danced in Their Heads
*Photo by Iain Bagwell
When I was a little girl, I waited every year with great anticipation for the Christmas party that our family friend, Cora-Louise, would give at her effortlessly chic house in the Mississippi Delta. Children were invited to this grown up affair, and we’d deck out in our finest smocked dresses and velvet and run through the house with Shirley Temples and iced cookies in hand while our parents drank Jack Daniel’s or Johnny Walker Red (or in leaner years, Old Charter). I remember the ice clinking in their glasses, cigarettes in hand. We looked forward to that party all year.
The table in Cora-Louise’s dining room was spread with silver trays of Virginia ham, homemade yeast rolls, aspics, gougeres, cold shrimp, and all manner of sweets. Iced cookies and a beautiful buche de Noel took pride of place, but the kids were always fascinated by the silver bowl piled high with bourbon balls. Because we were mostly under 10, the illicit promise of getting tipsy from something sweet held a special allure, and we dared one another to try this contraband confection to see what happened.
When one of our small compatriots took the plunge and promptly disappeared, we were all atwitter when he resurfaced, sober as a judge but green around the gills. “What happened with the bourbon ball?” We asked. “It’s currently in the front yard,” he replied.
Our childish interest in the silver bowl of bourbon balls has grown up over time. Now, when we attend the same party - nowadays in a different house as hostesses have handed the responsibility down the generations -we can appreciate the bourbon ball for the delectable holiday treat that it is, the perfect alchemy of booze and sugar.
I hope you’ll enjoy Julia’s version of the bourbon ball, found in her book “Julia Reed’s South.” Naturally hers were the very best.
Julia Reed’s Bourbon Balls -makes 16
- 1 (12oz) box Nabisco Vanilla Wafers
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
- 1 cup fine chopped pecans, plus more for rolling (6oz package is enough) Better if toasted.
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup bourbon (I like Maker’s Mark)
Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor. Then pulse the wafers until they become crumbled into to a fine crumb. Then place the crumbs in a large bowl and set aside. Next pulse the pecans in the food processor until they are finely chopped.
Next in a large bowl mix together the wafer crumbs, pecan pieces, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, corn syrup and bourbon. Mix well with a rubber spatula and then form them into 1 inch balls.
Roll the ball in powdered sugar or alternatively roll part of the bourbon balls in some finely chopped pecan pieces. This will give you a pretty black and white combination.
Note: the bourbon balls will keep for up to two weeks in airtight container in your fridge.