HALLOWEEN: Jack o’ Lantern Nacho Cheese Ball Recipe
It’s easy to make a cheese ball: combine room temperature cream cheese with other ingredients in a bowl or mixer and blend; then form into a ball and coat with shredded cheese or seasonings.
This recipe has nacho seasonings, but you can make any cheese ball recipe you like.
The history of the Jack O’Lantern is below. But this recipe isn’t limited to Halloween. Just omit Jack’s face decorations and you have a cheese ball for any day of the year.
TIP: It is better to shred your own Cheddar, as tempting as it might be to buy pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded has a different texture, from the additives used to keep the shreds from sticking together in the bag.
Prep time is 15 minutes, chilling time is 2 hours.
*If you want a really orange cheese ball, use Ritz crackers. You still have tortilla chips for serving.
1. CRUSH the corn chips in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin. Set aside.
2. PLACE the cream cheese, Cheddar, onions, salsa, cumin, and jalapeño into the bowl of a mixer and blend thoroughly. Form into a pumpkin-like shape and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. You may find it neater to put the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, and form the ball from the outside of the plastic.
3. BEFORE serving, roll the cheese ball in the crushed corn chips. Arrange the cheese ball on a plate, and press the bell pepper stem or celery stalk into the top.
4. MAKE a jack o’ lantern face, if desired, with break-off pieces of blue corn chips/black bean chips to form a jack o’ lantern face. The chip pieces should adhere to the pumpkin cheese ball if you gently press them onto it, but you can also glue them on using a small dab of plain yogurt or sour cream.
5. SERVE the cheese ball with black bean chips, crackers and spreading knives.
Jack o’ lanterns carved from pumpkins are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration to the U.S., jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes, and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.
The jack o’ lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.
So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.
Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.
Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.
When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.
But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a lump of burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’ Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.
Immigrants brought the jack o’ lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.