Traditions begin with one and become solid and must through the passing of years. Traditions become the foundation upon which family love, friendships, and the precious life of holidays dwell. Not even those who enjoy the tradition can explain the why; it simply is. “We always do it this way,” and thus it is so.
My family enjoys the tradition of peanut butter balls at Christmas. It is tradition only because we have always done it this way. Not even the 50 year ball munchers can tell the story of how these sugary wonders became tradition. They only know it is.
The tradition of peanut butter balls began on a hot summer day in a simple rock farmhouse in northwest Arkansas. My Granny had only a handful of recipes written on paper. Her recipes were written in her head just as her mother had taught her. She made biscuits by a dump of flour a blob of fat, a pinch of baking powder and salt, pour a little sweet milk over all and stir just enough to bring the biscuits together. Bake in a hot oven and feed them to the hungry kids and husband. Simple!
But tucked into her sparsely populated recipe card box was the happiest recipe on earth. Granny had clipped a recipe for peanut butter balls from a magazine and tucked it between birthday cake and cookies. Pay dirt! Mix peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Make into balls. Dip into melted chocolate. Score! Heaven on earth.
I kneaded my first messy filling together and dipped my first candy ever the very next Christmas. The balls could not have been uglier! If only I had a picture!
From these humble beginnings peanut butter balls are now a 4-generation tradition. Why? Because we have always done it this way.
Peanut Butter Balls
½ cup peanut butter
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
12 ounces chocolate candy melts
Sift powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour melted butter over sugar and mix in. Add peanut butter and continue mixing. I find it easiest to use my washed hands to knead the peanut butter into the sugar. If the mixture is too sticky, then add a little sugar to bring it all together. If the mixture is too dry, then add a little peanut butter to pull it all together. Fortunately the peanut butter filling is forgiving.
Roll the filling into ½ ounce (1 inch) balls.Let the peanut butter balls rest in the freezer for at least 1 hour before dipping them in melted chocolate.
To melt the chocolate place all candy melts in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat microwaving and stirring until the chocolate is melted and flowing. Chocolate burns very easily so be careful to avoid over-heating! If the chocolate is clumpy and refusing to properly melt then stir in a spoonful of shortening. Add more shortening if needed to turn chocolate blob into a free flowing, shiny chocolate river.
Once chocolate is melted then retrieve peanut butter balls from the freezer and dip one ball at a time into melted chocolate. I use two spoons to roll the peanut butter ball in the melted chocolate and then tip it from one spoon to another to let the chocolate drip. Place dipped ball on parchment paper lined baking sheet and let the chocolate cool and set. Be quick in the dipping process. If you allow the peanut butter ball to rest in the melted chocolate then it will soon melt and create a peanut butter chocolate mess. While it might be delicious it will also be a mess!
After the chocolate has set the peanut butter balls should be stored in an airtight food container in the refrigerator lest the heat of the kitchen causes the chocolate to soften. Store them under the veggies if you want to hide them from the kids in the hopes of keeping some for yourself. The first batch won’t last long once the kids discover them but they might become your forever tradition.