Apparently, it’s a Wisconsin thing.
The Wisconsin cheese industry claims that club, crock or pub cheese originated there in the early 1900s as a snack served to touring guests at the Pabst Brewery Hospitality Center in Milwaukee. Smeared on a cracker and washed down by a cold beer, the cheese blend was a hit and, in 1933, Hubert Fassbender (of Kaukauna, Wisconsin) became the first commercial manufacturer of the cheese sensation when he put his Kaukauna Klub cheese on the market.
I remember buying big crocks of Fassbender’s cheese back in the 1970s. It became a staple on our holiday table and we were partial to the crock of cheese with port wine swirled throughout the mixture. Today, the cheese, also called cold pack cheese because the cheeses are not heated during production, continues to be a popular Wisconsin product and sales of the cheese peak during the holidays. According to one of the producers, tastes are changing, though, with Jalapeno or habanero-flavored cheese being particularly popular as America’s palate has become more adventurous.
Over the years, cooks have, of course, tried their hands at various homemade versions of pub cheese and somewhere, in some kitchen, the cheese ball was born.
Sadly, in some circles, the cheese ball gets no respect–a Rodney Dangerfield of the world of party appetizers. Too boring. Too bland. Too much of a “boomer” thing.
My recommendation is that you don’t shy away from the modern cheese ball (or the crock of Wisconsin pub cheese at your market).
At least, don’t run away from this recipe from The New York Times. For those of you who are cheese addicts (you know who you are), this cheese ball is a wonderful thing. It has a bit of a bite. It has the complex flavor that comes from combining several quality cheeses. It has roasted pecans. It works.
If it’s too “boomer” for you, just tell yourself that it’s fashionably retro and go with it.
Serves 8 to 10 servings
- 4 T. good-quality salted butter
- 1 C. shredded sharp, flavorful cheese in any combination that might include Gruyere, cheddar of blue cheese
- 3 oz. fresh goat cheese
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 1 T. finely chopped scallions
- 1/4 t. cayenne
- 1/4 t. fish sauce (or Worstershire or omit)
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 1/3 C. chopped, salted and roasted pecans
- 1 T. chopped flat leaf parsley
- Set cheeses and butter out on your counter and allow them to come to room temperature.
- Combine all ingredients except pecans and parsley in the bowl of a stand up mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. (This should take about 4 minutes.)
- Using a spatula, scrap the cheese mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and gently form into a ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until firm enough to work with.
- Mix the chopped salted pecans and chopped parsley together in a large plate. Roll the cheese ball through the mixture. Cover any surfaces with a sprinkling of the mixture and pat into the sides until you have an evenly-coated ball.
- Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, let the ball sit out for a half hour or so to soften a bit. Serve with good plain crackers or small toasts.
The original recipe for this cheese ball comes from the New York Times. Here is the link: