Pimento Cheese

16 Jan

I moved to the southeastern part of the country about 15 years ago.  I had spent my entire life prior to that living in the midwest.  My culinary roots are steeped in basic farm to table food.  I was not exposed to a lot of different food growing up.  Strictly regional and deliciously 50’s Americana food is what I ate growing up.  When I started cooking, I began with what I knew.  I pretty much nailed good midwestern cooking.  You know, roasts, whole chickens, potatoes, green beans, and the crowning jewel…lumpless rich gravy!   Yummy, but basic.  Which is exactly the way to begin something.  Learn the basics first.  Get some techniques down.  Become confident.  Then stretch your wings!

When I moved to this part of the country,  I read “Gone with the Wind”, a great Southern classic.  A friend had suggested reading something southern in celebration of moving to the southern part of our country.  Yes, its fiction.  But I came from Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln”, and I found that reading this book was a colorful expansion of culture, and a wonderful one at that.  I caught myself up on southern history and southeastern geography as well.  I tried to immerse myself in my new home town in a new and unfamiliar part of the country.  Naturally, that led me to learning about southern food.  In doing so, I discovered a new favorite appetizer.

I had never heard of pimento cheese prior to moving to this part of the country.  I am thrilled to have not only discovered it, but to have a whiz bang recipe for it that I love.  I whip this up quickly and let it sit in the fridge.  Believe me, it does not last long in my house.  We toss it on crackers, slather it on sandwiches, and heat it up in quessadillas.

As with most of my recipes, I do have some secrets that go with this one.  I usually add a tablespoon or two of diced jalapeno peppers to this recipe.  This brings nothing but praise from my teenagers, who tend to  like a little zip in their food.  I also usually mix 1 cup each of 2 different kinds of cheddar cheese, such as a mild cheddar and a sharp cheddar.

Years ago when I began making and tweaking this recipe, I liked to chat about it. You know us foodies…we just have to talk about food!  Anywhooo, I was chatting about pimento cheese with a lovely elderly lady with whom I shared a friendship.  This lady was the epitome of southern charm and graciousness.  Never without lipstick, she had the most beautiful gray hair, always perfectly coiffed.  Her clothes were always perfectly modest and pressed.  She had a lovely lilt to her voice and was proud to have her roots firmly planted in the south.  As I excitedly told her about my new found fondness for pimento cheese, she inquired as to my recipe.  I shared it with her.

Sure my recipe was basic.  I thought it to be a great starting point.  When she heard it, she oh so gently lifted her hand to her mouth and cupped it around her lips.  A secret was about to be revealed!  (Usually ladies do this when they are proudly revealing that they just got an additional 25% off on a new dress, or what the neighbor spent on their new car.  There is an exciting element of collusion when the mouth gets cupped in such a way!).  “Do you add any vinegar to your pimento cheese?” she asked with raised eyebrows and a proud little smirk.  Why no, I said.  A little thrill went through me and I asked her how much to add.  She held her hand up like she was holding a bottle of vinegar.  She then gestured tilting of the bottle to a quick 2 count and said that was how much to add.  Brilliant!!

So my pimento cheese evolved simply into what it is today.  I don’t want to jazz it up too much so it holds true to what it is.  But adding the vinegar is fantastic, as is adding the diced peppers.  Try it and tell me what you think!  Bon appetite!

Amy’s Pimento Cheese

  • 2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4-1/3 cup mayonnaise -do not use salad dressing
  • I small jar pimento, undrained
  • 2 T. white vinegar
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.  This gets better as it sits in the fridge, but it sure doesn’t last long!   Use as desired!

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One Response to “Pimento Cheese”

  1. shirley klingele January 17, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    Beautifully written, with gusto, and sass, humor and a touch of bang! how I love you and your talant… Your my girl~ hugs, from mommy 🙂

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