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Spirited Rum Balls

As the holidays begin to approach – despite store displays that indicate that Christmas began in October – it is time to start thinking about holiday gifts and cookies, both for swapping and for eating. This recipe is a variation on Martha Stewart’s Bourbon Balls. The biggest change is that instead of bourbon, I prefer to use dark rum, which is made from fermented molasses. Alcohol and molasses? Sounds like Christmas to me! Of course, I’m only kidding. I confess that these are actually a bit too… alcoholic for my personal tastes, but the combination seems to make them a very popular choice for holiday parties.

I wonder why.

These no-bake cookie-like confections have a soft texture and rummy taste. The best way I can think of to describe them is as the cookie version of a truffle, because they certainly bring truffles to my mind, though they lack the rich creaminess of the candy. I think that they are quite fun to make, not to mention exceptionally easy if you have a food processor. I would not advise attempting them without one, since it would be difficult to achieve the right consistency using a rolling pin and a spoon. You can use any brand of vanilla wafers or substitute animal crackers, which are slightly less sweet and work equally well.

I actually do not recommend eating these when they are freshly made; they will be too wet, have a sharp alcoholic taste and a somewhat gritty texture. Because the flavors (and texture) meld rather impressively over time, it really is best to make these a few days ahead. And as many of us get rather busy around the holidays, who can complain about something that you can do a week ahead of time? Once you’ve rolled them, leave the rum balls out for about 24 hours to “dry” a bit, and then seal them in an airtight container. If you use a small container, you can pop them in an envelope and mail them to a friend. By the time they arrive, they should be just about perfect. I recommend making them at least 3 days ahead.

Rum Balls

3 cups vanilla wafers (or animal crackers)

1 cup pecans

1/2-2/3 cup dark rum

1 cup confectioners sugar

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 tbsp corn syrup

additional confectioners sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, whizz wafer cookies until they are reduced to crumbs. Add pecans and continue to process until mixture is uniform. Add sugar, cocoa and corn syrup. With the motor running, drizzle in rum until the mixture comes together in a thick, sticky ball. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and coat with confectioners sugar.
Set in a single layer to dry for 24 hours before storing. Make at least one day ahead.
Makes 48 balls.

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  • Alice
    November 11, 2005

    Yay! Thank you! They certainly weren’t too alcoholic for my taste! My neighbor had one and he kept saying how it was so similar to these bourbon balls that someone he knows makes….I think this might easily explain that! 🙂 You must’ve very finely ground the cookies, after all, as I could not detect any crumbs…I was even thinking that perhaps you hadn’t started with the traditional vanilla wafers. Anyway…thanks for the recipe.

  • mari
    November 11, 2005

    Rum instead of bourbon…that’s interesting. I’ll definitely give this one a try! I make bourbon balls every Christmas – I have a recipe for what I call “Killer Bourbon Balls” that almost burn when you pop them in your mouth. For many people, they’re much too alcoholic. But my friends from Kentucky think they’re just right (wonder why?).

    I tried another recipe, a Williams-Sonoma recipe (which I think you can find in their Desserts or Chocolate book, I forget which one) that is much milder. I offer both at parties and sure enough, people either take to one or the other.

  • michelle
    November 11, 2005

    Rum balls? YUMMY. I think I’ll have to try these – I have lots of friends who very much like the taste of rum in their food…graduate students need alcohol more than most to get through those long hours in the lab! I think these will be perfect for the potluck we’re going to on sunday – and just enough time to let them ‘cure.’ Thanks for the recipe!

  • Cathy
    November 11, 2005

    Hi Nic – those look really good and I know Alice loved them… I’m wondering if they might be too boozy for my taste also. Do you think you could substitute orange juice or something for part of the alcohol?

  • Nic
    November 12, 2005

    Alice – I definately think that this would explain the similarities. And I did use Animal crackers instead when I made them – good for you to pick up on that!

    Mari – I’ll take a look for the mider version, though It doesn’t suprise me that people like them strong.

    Michelle – Ah, an excellent choice for grad students. Don’t forget to make them in advance!

    Cathy – Good question. They’ll work, but I don’t know what they’d taste like. You could try coffee for part of the rum. The safest thing to do would be to use part rum and part some other alcohol, like Kalua or Bailey’s, which would take the edge off but keep the alcohol.

  • galinusa
    November 13, 2005

    Ooh – thanks to this post, I finally learnt that rum balls were made this way! I always wondered but never found out. Will definitely try it soon. Perfect for Christmas I say. Thanks again!

  • caryn
    November 15, 2005

    Thanks for the recipe, Nic! My grandma makes rum balls every year for Christmas, but hers tend to be a bit on the potent side and we all snicker aboout her liberal use of rum. Since she is 85 now and complains that they are too much work for her, I shall try my hand at them using your recipe!

  • Beth
    October 27, 2008

    Hi, Nicole–
    I’m trying to reach you to request permission to link to your recipe (and share a photo) for our upcoming Handmade Holidays on the Sew,Mama,Sew! blog. I couldn’t find your contact information (though it is late!). Would you mind emailing so I can give you the details? We love your recipe and would like to share it with our readers.

    Thank you!

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