We tend to burn a lot of calories on campouts. We’re playing and/or working hard. In addition to our 3 squares a day, at the end of the day, we’re looking for that bedtime snack to tide us over until breakfast. We call it a cracker barrel. It’s also a place to gather and talk about the day and share stories around the campfire.
For cracker barrel, we like to keep things simple. No cooking and no cleanup because who wants to be doing dishes late at night? Finger foods are the way to go and this make-ahead cheese spread is perfect. It’s simple to make (about 15 minutes) and brings an element of fanciness to a campfire cracker barrel. Folks just don’t expect it and that makes it fun to serve.
To learn more about the tradition of the cracker barrel or for more cracker barrel ideas, please read my blog post: “Evening Cracker Barrel and the Art of Snacking.”
This cheese spread can be made at home before you go. It can be kept chilled up to two days, so I would make it no earlier than Thursday night for a Saturday night cracker barrel. Serve it with crackers, sliced bread or crudités, which is a fancy French word for sliced or whole raw vegetables. I like to serve it with crackers because, growing up, cheese and crackers was one of my dad’s favorite snacks, and that’s a fond memory for me.
We’ve spread it on Wheat Thins, Ritz, buttery club crackers, and plain old saltines. There really isn’t a cracker this cheese spread doesn’t go with. My favorite is the Wheat Thin or some kind of whole wheat or whole grain cracker.
For serving, you can shape it into a ball or a log, or smush it into a shallow plastic container. A shallow container will give the spread more surface area for the chives, parsley, and peppers you’re going to sprinkle on top. You want folks to be able to get a nice combination of everything on their vessel.
I use a 25-ounce shallow Glad container that holds half a batch nicely and allows plenty of room to sprinkle on the toppings (pictured above). If I need to serve a whole batch or more, I use multiple containers. I transport the toppings separately and sprinkle on when I’m ready to serve.
If you’re making this at home for a holiday party or a family gathering, you can line a small, 6-cup Bundt pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture into that and chill for 1 to 48 hours. Unmold it onto a serving platter and cover it with the chives, parsley, and peppers for a festive looking wreath. Crackers, bread, and crudités can be arranged around the wreath or served in baskets, bowls or platters on the side.
This recipe calls for pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, which is a trademarked brand. Peppadews are hot, very sweet peppers that have been pickled. The heat is similar to a jalapeño and they are bright red, which gives the cheese spread a very festive look. Peppadew peppers are hard to find, depending on where you live. I have to order them from Amazon. In a pinch, we’ve used Mezzetta sweet cherry peppers, but they’re not quite the same. Whichever you use, I recommend removing the seeds because they are very hard. Leftover peppers can be added to the crudités or you can save them and add them to other dishes. They are great on a pizza.
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded firm cheese, such as Cheddar, Pepper Jack or Colby
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
Crackers, sliced bread or crudités, for serving
In a food processor or a medium mixing bowl, if you’re mixing it by hand, combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. If you’re using a food processor, transfer the mixture into a medium bowl. Fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the chopped peppers.
Form the mixture into a ball or log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Or, smush it into a shallow plastic container or a 6-cup Bundt pan lined with plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
At home, if you’re using the Bundt mold, uncover and invert the cheese mold onto a serving platter. If you formed it into a ball or log, unwrap and transfer to a serving platter (in camp, you could use a large paper plate).
In camp, if you’re using a shallow plastic container, you can serve directly out of the container. Sprinkle with the chives and parsley to completely coat the cheese mixture, and garnish with the reserved 2 tablespoons peppers.
Serve with crackers, sliced bread or crudités and you’ll need a knife or spreader.
Serves 16 to 20.
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