2017 started with my 14-year-old dog Copper passing away. It ended with us losing my Aunt Dianne, three days before the end of the year. 2017 kicked my emotional butt in other words.
Dianne was my mom’s baby sister and lived with my parents for about eight years before she passed away. She was crazy, eccentric, fun, loving, and spent much of her life being told she wasn’t good enough or wanted.
She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was in her 20s and struggled with it for years. Near the end of her life, she also developed heart failure and COPD from years of smoking. She’d also had two heart attacks. We think a third one might be what took her on Dec. 29, 2017. She passed away in my parents’ dining room when she sat in a chair and then fell forward to the floor.
It was very traumatic for my mom and dad who were with her.
These days we try not to focus on the tragedy of Dianne’s life and death but on the good parts of her life, the way she made us laugh, the joy she had in giving to others, and the delight in the little things in life brought her. I wrote a little bit about her on the blog shortly after she passed and then again later on.
One thing Dianne enjoyed was cooking for others. She didn’t cook a ton but she did make a couple of things at Christmas. She used to make collard greens when she lived in North Carolina with my grandmother. When she came to Pennsylvania to live with my parents, she carried with her the tradition of making sausage balls each year for Christmas.
Sausage balls seem to be a Southern thing because I don’t see them much here in the North.
They are a very simple dish – sausage, Bisquick, and shredded cheese shaped into a ball and cooked in the oven.
The last few years my parents and I have made them in Dianne’s honor because my mom said it was one of the last things she was able to do before she passed.
“I just remember how delighted she was to be able to make those for all of you,” Mom told me shortly after Dianne died. “She sat at the table for the longest time making them. She was determined to make them.”
I didn’t get the ingredients I needed to make the sausage balls in time for Christmas, so I made them to celebrate the new year at my parents, which we didn’t actually do until Sunday. Sadly, my sausage balls did not taste as good as Dianne’s. Because I have a food allergy, I used gluten-free Bisquick mix. This mix cuts out the wheat and corn, but doesn’t mix as well and takes a lot more work. The sausage I used was very salty and I think the cheese I used was as well. Whatever happened, the sausage balls were okay but not up to Dianne’s standards. I may try to make some again this next week because they do make a nice snack any time of the year.
If any of you are interested in making them yourselves I have included the very simple recipe at the bottom of the post. As I have done in the past when sharing this recipe, I will give you a few pointers that Dianne gave me.
First, don’t use the cheese already shredded in bags from the store. Cellulose is added to this cheese to keep it from sticking together, which works fine for your tacos, salads, or pizza, but doesn’t work well when you are trying to blend it with sausage and pancake mix. Instead, Dianne always used a block of cheese and grated it herself so that it would blend better.
Dianne also took the sausage out of the fridge for an hour or maybe even a little earlier before mixing it. When the sausage is too cold it doesn’t always mix as well.
Finally, when you make the sausage balls, don’t make them too small because they will shrink and get too hard while cooking. Also, don’t make them too big or they will take longer to cook.
I hope you enjoy the recipe and if you make them and like them, let me know and send me photos!. Also, If you are down south, I believe I saw one time that they are for sale in the freezer section of some supermarkets, which would be easier but probably wouldn’t taste as good.
- 1 pound ground pork sausage
- 2 cups biscuit baking mix (we use Bisquick, but any kind will do)
- 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Step 2 In a large bowl, combine sausage, biscuit baking mix and cheese. Form into walnut size balls and place on baking sheets.
- Step 3 Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and sausage is cooked through.