Pimiento Cheese

Yep, you can make it from scratch.  Mostly I find that the stuff you get in the store is goopy.  It has too much mayonnaise.  And usually it’s some kind of processed cheese.  Honestly, I’ve never made it myself.  In fact, I didn’t even eat it until recent years.  I always lumped it in with things like olive loaf and Spam.  Eeewww.  And then I discovered at a family reunion that my Aunt Nina, baker of the most amazing pound cake in the world, makes the most wonderful pimiento cheese.  No idea what she puts in it.  I didn’t have a chance to ask before I made this.  I have book club tonight and this is what I’m taking.

Apparently pimiento cheese is a Southern thing.  I didn’t know that because I’ve lived in the South all my life.  Check it out on NPR if you like. (Pimento Cheese:  It’s a Southern Thing).  Just so you know, a pimiento (or pimento) pepper is a very mild, sweet red pepper.  The ones you use in this lovely cheese mixture are pickled.  Mostly you find them pickled, diced and packed in tiny jars.  As far as a recipe for pimiento cheese, there are as many recipes as there are folks who make it.  Most folks probably haven’t bothered to pay much attention to how they make it, much less write it down.  I’m guessing the best recipes for this yummy stuff can be found in church cookbooks.  Some folks add garlic.  Some folks add jalapenos.  Some folks use pimiento stuffed olives instead of plain pimientos.  The only requirements are cheese, Duke’s and pimientos.  Then go a little crazy if you like.

I pretty much only eat pimiento cheese as itself.  Choose a delivery mechanism – bread, crackers, celery, pepper slices, etc. – and enjoy!  But I did take a quick look to see what kinds of recipes are out there that give this lovely concoction a little more versatility.  There’s not a lot out there, but I am intrigued by a variety of macaroni and cheese that uses pimiento cheese.  I can also attest that it makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  I think what we’ve established here is that this is not a high brow food, but it adds a little something extra to your standard cheese dishes.

When I started thinking about making pimiento cheese somehow my brain got stuck on cheese straws.  When you make cheese straws you whip the butter and cheese until it becomes this smooth, creamy, fluffy consistency.  I decided that a beginning like that would be terrific for holding together pimento cheese as well.  I used Duke’s instead of butter of course and the extra sharp white cheddar.  There wasn’t quite enough liquid so I used the liquid from the pimiento jar.  Perfect.  Whipping the cheese with the mayonnaise let’s you use a little less mayo and adds a lot of flavor to the whole mixture I think.  My secret ingredients, less secret now, are smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.  Just a little of each adds a lot of dimension to the flavor.

I like my pimiento cheese to be a little spreadable so I grated the yellow cheddar with a standard box grater.  That way it’s still substantial enough that you get kind of a rough texture, but it wouldn’t tear the bread.  You can put it all in the food processor and whip it together if you want to pipe it onto crackers or cucmber slices for something a little fancier.  Or if you like it a little chunky chop all the cheese with a knife.  Just add a little mayonnaise at a time.  It won’t take as much as you think.  And don’t add any salt until you’ve got the pimientos in there.  You may not need to add any salt at all after that.

Good? Comfort. Food.
Easy? The easiest.
Good for company? It’s a particular taste, so ask first.
Special shopping? No way.

Pimiento Cheese

Ingredients

1 16 oz block sharp yellow cheddar
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar
1 small jar diced pimientos (4 oz)
1/4 C or more Duke’s mayonnaise
1 t smoked paprika
dash of cayenne

Directions

Set white cheddar out to come to room temperature. Put white cheddar, 3-4 T mayonnaise and liquid from the pimiento jar in food processor. Process until smooth and fluffy. Grate entire block of yellow cheddar using largest holes on a box grater.
In a large bowl mix all ingredients until well combined.
Keep in the refrigerator. Set out to bring to room temperature before serving.

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2 Responses to “Pimiento Cheese”

  1. laurie green Says:

    I grew up in Kansas City, MO and had never eaten pimentor cheese or even heard of it. However, when I was 13, we moved 120 miles south to Joplin, MO where I encountered it in the school cafeteria. I have been a big fan ever since, but have never made it. I hope to try your recipe this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Cheryl W. Says:

    This looks wonderful and I never like pimiento. I am going to make this for the next women’s luncheon we have.

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