My 95-year-old grandmother has a beloved whiskey ball recipe she makes for Christmas.
The five-ingredient recipe has been in my family for at least three generations.
I made the treats for the first time, and they came out just how I remember them.
As a kid, I loved three things about Christmas: no school, presents, and whiskey balls. I didn't know any other families who ate whiskey balls for Christmas, so it always felt like a special secret my grandmother shared with our family each year.
My grandmother doesn't remember where she inherited the recipe from, but she used to make it with her four children in the 50s and 60s. Then, my grandmother tasked me with helping when I was a kid in the 2000s. Now, as an adult, I tried making the entire recipe by myself.
You'll need five ingredients to make my grandmother's whiskey balls.
To make whiskey balls, you'll need the following:
50 vanilla wafers
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tbsp Karo corn syrup
3 shots of whiskey
This recipe takes about 20 minutes and makes 16 whiskey balls, depending on each ball's size. You'll need Ziploc bags, a rolling pin, at least two bowls, and a container to hold the finished whiskey balls.
First, prep the vanilla wafers by crushing them in a plastic bag or a food processor.
According to my grandmother's recipe, crush the vanilla wafers until they have a crumbly, slightly fine texture. You don't want the wafers to be too finely ground because it will be harder to form them into balls.
You can crush the wafers in a plastic bag using your hands or a rolling pin. Use a food processor on the "chopped" setting to save time. While the plastic bag method is nostalgic, I used a food processor for my whiskey balls.
Second, prep the nuts by doing the same thing.
Like the wafers, chop one cup of nuts into smaller pieces. My grandmother said you can use pecans or walnuts, but my family typically uses pecans.
Feel free to use a food processor to break down the pecans, or carefully use a cutting board and knife to do the job.
Add all the ingredients except powdered sugar to a large bowl to mix.
Mix the whiskey, corn syrup, wafers, and pecans before forming them into balls.
Pour three shots of whiskey into the bowl.
My grandmother used J&B Scotch Whisky, but local stores in my neighborhood didn't carry that. She said Jim Beam was also a good choice, which is what I ended up purchasing.
Pour two tablespoons of Karo corn syrup into the whiskey.
The corn syrup will act as a sweetener in the recipe and blend with the whiskey's sharp taste. Mix the whiskey and corn syrup evenly.
Add the crushed wafers into the large bowl with the liquids.
You'll see a wet batter form when the wafers get added to corn syrup and whiskey.
Add the chopped nuts with the wafers, corn syrup, and whiskey.
The chopped nuts will help the whiskey balls stiffen a bit, but expect the batter to still be wet.
The batter should be wet after mixing the ingredients.
Add more vanilla wafers if you want the whiskey balls to be firmer.
It's time to add powdered sugar! Spoon small to medium-sized balls out of the batter and roll them in the sugar.
Rolling the batter into balls will be messy because they're still wet, so I suggest coating your hands in some all-purpose flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands. I also recommend covering the bottom of your storage container with parchment paper and a thin layer of powdered sugar.
Roll each ball in powdered sugar and transfer it to a storage container. Once each whiskey ball is covered in sugar, refrigerate overnight until the batter has firmed.
I haven't eaten whiskey balls in over a decade, but they taste just how I remembered.
It's been years since my grandmother made whiskey balls, but they're still my favorite Christmas treat. It may go without saying, but this recipe is perfect for people who don't mind a little booze in their desserts. The whiskey takes center stage with its signature bittersweet zing on my taste buds, but the corn syrup and powdered sugar combat the taste, making the whiskey more palatable.
The best thing, in my opinion, about the whiskey balls' texture is the pecans because they add a much-needed crunch to an otherwise soft dessert. The recipe has been in my family for at least three generations, and it's one I hope to pass on.
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