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How to make the best Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball

As far as we're concerned, it's not the holidays until someone shows up with a cheese ball. Especially popular in the South and the Midwest, cheese balls are full of flavor and easy to prepare. One of the best recipes is a Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball spiked with a little Duplin Christmas Wine.

We have lots of tips for making the best cheese balls, but the most important piece of advice is this: Generously season the cheese.

Mild cream cheese that goes into cheese ball recipes absorbs a lot of flavors, so don't be shy with the add-ins.

We started by macerating dried cranberries in Duplin Christmas Wine for a little sweetness and mincing fresh jalapeños for some bite. Garlic, chives, chili powder, coarsely cracked black pepper and a couple of tablespoons of Duplin Gourmet Muscadine Red Pepper & Onion Relish provided savory notes.

Another important tip: Choose sharp cheeses for cheese balls. We selected an extra-sharp cheddar and then reinforced its tang with a touch of blue cheese.

A mixer is a great way to thoroughly mix cheese ball ingredients, but use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold in the macerated cranberries and minced jalapeños so that their beautiful colors stay intact rather than being mashed by the beaters.

The delicate sweetness of pecans is our favorite for coating cheese balls. If you have time, toast and cool the chopped pecans for a roasted flavor.

Refrigerate a freshly made cheese ball overnight so that its ingredients can marry. Like beef stew, a cheese ball is so much better the next day. Let it soften at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. 

Our Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball feeds about 12 people as part of an appetizer display, but you can double or triple this recipe so easily. For parties, set a few cheese balls around the house. Bring one to the office Christmas party, or wrap up a few to give as gifts. Don't forget the crackers. 

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