I promised my brother that I’d get back to my occasional series on Kentucky foods, so here goes. Last August I wrote about Blue Mondays. Kentucky’s other favorite candies are bourbon balls. Unlike Blue Mondays, which are best bought from Ruth Hunt, bourbon balls are best, and easily, made at home. While bourbon balls can be made anytime of the year, in Kentucky they are most popular during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season (certainly a better use for bourbon than fruitcake is) and during Derby week.
The late Ruth Booe, of Frankfort, Kentucky and the owner of the Rebecca-Ruth Candy company, invented bourbon balls in 1938. Like anything good that’s been around that long, there are now many recipes for them. This is the recipe my grandmother and mother always used, and that my daughter Briar still uses.
1 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons bourbon whiskey*
1 pound powdered sugar (10x)
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
6 squares semi-sweet chocolate (Baker’s)
1 square (same size as a chocolate square) of paraffin wax
Cream sugar and butter.
Cut pecans fine.
Pour bourban over nuts and let sit a few minutes.
Combine sugar-butter mix with bourbon-nut mix.
Store in refrigerator while preparing chocolate dip.
Put chocolate and paraffin wax in a double boiler and melt. Stir well.
Roll sugar mix into balls (approx. 1" in diameter) and dip in chocolate with a fork.
Place on wax paper until cool.
Store in a tin in a cool place.
There is one popular variation to this recipe. Instead of adding finely chopped pecans, add just the bourbon to the sugar-butter mix and after rolling into balls, press a pecan half into the top of each ball prior to dipping them in the chocolate.
*This is one case where you can get away with using the cheapest bourbon on the store shelf.