Image Credit: "A Trip Down South"
…not “pimento cheese dip,” or “pimento cheese spread,” but “pimento cheese.” If you’re a non-southerner, and you want to ask a dyed-in-the-wool southerner what this much revered dish is, make sure you just refer to it as “pimento cheese.” “Dip,” and “spread” are only verbs to us. We find no need for an adjective to describe the proper procedure for using it. We’re quite well versed in it’s ability slather on, dip in, or dump over just about anything. We also don’t care that referring to the dish as “pimento cheese” is a complete misnomer. If you’re expecting a block of cheese filled with pepper pieces, go look for some pepper jack, you won’t find it here.
So what is this marvel of southern design? This versatile carrier in which half the things in your house would benefit from it’s unique taste? (Crackers, veggies, meats, the doorknob… whatever’s handy…) Surely anything this good requires a full page of ingredients, hours of prep, and a lifetime of dedication to master it’s subtle nuances.
It’s sharp cheddar, mayo and jarred pimento peppers.
The base recipe is as follows:
8oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese
4oz Jarred Pimento Peppers (Drained)
1/4 Cup of Mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors meld.
Now, this may seem to be the epitome of backwoods, redneck cuisine. Especially to the untrained eye. But, believe it or not, a pimento cheese sandwich is THE thing to eat at one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world. The Masters, held every year in Augusta, Georgia. Only something so special, so southern, and so tasty, can not only appeal to the masses, but can appeal to those who could afford to eat it on a golden plate with a platinum knife. From golfers, to spectators, to sponsors, everyone lines up to taste the one of the simplest staples of southern comfort food.
But, they do modify the recipe slightly.
The Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwich (Makes two sandwiches.)
4oz Extra Sharp Vermont Cheddar (White or Yellow, Shredded)
3oz Jarred Pimento Peppers (Drained and Finely Chopped)
2 Tbs Mayonnaise
1/2 Tsp Hot Pepper Sauce
4 Thin Slices of Vidalia Onion
1 Cup of Watercress Sprigs (Stems Removed)
4 Slices of White-Wheat bread.
Salt and or Pepper to taste.
Follow the base instructions for making pimento cheese (but remember to add the hot pepper sauce.) Once it has been well chilled, and the flavors have combined, spread pimento cheese evenly on bread. Top with onions and watercress sprigs.
As you can see, The Masters makes use of the base recipe and adds the flavors of red pepper, sweet onion and watercress. I would suggest that you experiment with other flavors as well. Jalapeño and garlic tend to be very popular additions in mass produced pimento cheese, and their flavors blend even better when incorporated into fresh pimento cheese.
Simplicity is the rule of the day when it comes to pimento cheese. It’s simple to make, simple to modify, and simple to serve. Therefore, I humbly suggest the next time you’re in the grocery store, bypass the Mrs. Stratton’s and try it the old fashioned way. The difference between fresh pimento cheese, and the pasturized, processed stuff that comes in a plastic tub will rock your tastebuds.
I’m pretty sure you’ll never go back.
1. Pimento Cheeseburgers (Standard hamburger topped with pimento cheese)
2. Filled Veggies
Cream pimento cheese in food processor (add a little milk if too thick). With a star tipped icing bag, pipe the puree into vegetables (pepper slices, tomato cups, celery ribs) Garnish with a dusting of minced parsley.
3. Southern “Canapés”
Top Ritz crackers, with thin Vidalia onion slices, cherry tomatoes (sliced into discs) and piped pimento cheese puree. Garnish with a small parsley sprig, or an olive ring.