Swiss and Cream Cheese Ball

Makes 2 cheese balls

8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons gin or vodka
10 ounces (2½ cups) grated Swiss cheese
2/3 cup chopped smoked ham or other ham variety
½ cup chopped fresh chives

In a large bowl or in a food processor, combine the cream cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, pepper, salt and gin. Beat or process until blended and smooth.

Add the cheese and ham, and beat vigorously until evenly mixed. If you are using a food processor, take care not to overmix; the ham and Swiss should retain some texture. This is a rather soft mixture and will be easier to form if it is first refrigerated for 2-3 hours.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme) with the chives and spread on a large plate or sheet of waxed paper. Dampen your hands with water to keep the cheese mixture from sticking to them, then divide the mixture in half.

Pat and press each half into a ball about 3 inches across; don’t worry about keeping the shape perfect. Roll each ball in the thyme and chive mixture, pressing so the coating adheres. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and chill until serving.

Serve with whole-grain crackers or breadsticks.