Pimento Cheese

by Liz on July 13, 2011

Pimento cheese on crostini

I have lived on and off in the South for a total of six and a half years. The most Southern experience of these years was spent in Hartsville, South Carolina. I had moved down there to help a great friend of mine open a coffee shop. She grew up in SC, as did her family. A common addition to lunches and a item I saw frequently in grocery stores and on local menus was this odd thing called “pimento cheese.” I was always too chicken to eat it, as it had pimentos in it. You know, those red things that come in a tiny jar? That stuff my mom bought for one purpose, which was to go in the chicken and rice casserole she used to make (which was totally delicious, by the way). I often turned up my nose at Southern food, being from the Midwest and less than adventurous eater at that point in my life. Eventually, I moved back to Nebraska, and forgot all about that weird pimento cheese.

Pimento cheese ingredients

Fast forward approximately eight years. I’ve been living back in the South for just over four years now. More Southern food has grown on me (Bojangles anyone?). I’ve even become a snob about barbecue, preferring the North Carolina vinegar and red pepper flake sauce. Anyway, I’m only about three hours from Hartsville, and love to drive down to visit my friends whenever I can. The coffee shop added a restaurant a few years back, and wouldn’t you know that pimento cheese showed up on the menu. I can’t remember when it was, but I know I finally ate some. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. Then my friend would come up and visit me, and would bring a tub of it and her house-made crostini with her. My husband generally devoured it, leaving a tiny bit left for her and me. The last time she visited, she brought some, and the switch flipped in my taste buds. I liked it!  I begged her for the recipe, which turns out is quite simple and easily adaptable.

Shredded cheddar Roasted Red Peppers
diced peppers cheese and peppers

Disclaimer: I know that especially in the South, there are limitless renditions of pimento cheese. However, this is the version that I like best. Also: I know that red peppers and pimentos are not quite the same, but this is just the way I learned to make it. For my friends who know my picky eating well: this is so far the only time I like red peppers. Don’t get too excited!

Notes: This recipe is easily adaptable. If you want to use those jarred pimentos, a different kind of cheese, etc, feel free. All measurements are approximate. Just make it to your taste!

Pimento Cheese
Adapted from The Midnight Rooster Coffee Shop and Eatery in Hartsville, SC
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

8 oz. block of sharp cheddar
3/4 of a whole roasted red pepper, or the whole thing if you really love red pepper. (the container I bought had 3 small ones in it. You can use the extras for sandwiches, pizzas, etc.)
3/4 - 1 cup mayo, depending on what consistency you prefer (I use light b/c I can’t tell a flavor difference, so I might as well save a few calories.)
Salt and pepper to taste (probably won’t need much salt on account of the cheese and mayo having salt in them)
Cayenne pepper, about 1/8 of a teaspoon

Preparation:

Shred the cheddar using a box grater or food processor. Transfer to a bowl. Dice up the roasted red pepper and add to the shredded cheese. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne, and mix in a little. Then add the mayo, and mix with a spoon until you get a nice, thick, consistency and the red pepper is evenly distributed. Serve with crostini, or whatever cracker is your favorite. Relax and enjoy a taste of the South!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

linda July 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm

i married an Alabama boy. and until then i’d never heard of pimento cheese sandwiches. he taught me how to make them and they are one of my favorite ways to have cheese. thanks for the memories… LOL

Liz July 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Pv: Oh, I know Duke’s mayo well. =) Since I do most of my shopping at Whole Foods, I just went with what they had, but when I lived in SC, Duke’s was all there was. However, let me reiterate that I’m not a real Southerner, but a Midwesterner at heart. Horror of horrors, I grew up with Miracle Whip.

Pv from charleston sc July 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

i was on my facebook and saw hartsville and i got curious and read this article. i love cabots cheese and also bbq there is only one sauce and thats the vineagar and pepper flake… THE ONLY BBQ Sauce!!!! but i noticed that you used “light mayo” thats not southern at all you should replace that with what southern cooks use… drum roll its DUKES mayonaise it does come in a light version but you should really use that instead. its the jar with the yellow lable with the black oval.!

julie allaben July 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I moved to Vermont 10 years and have searched hi and lo for prepared pimento cheese..to no avail. I finally decided to whip up a batch and took 3 stores to find pimento! Born and raised a southerner, pimento cheese is a given for summer sandwiches or stuffed in celery. Of course, I make it with sharp Cabot cheese.

Liz July 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Wendy: Thanks a bunch!

Candace July 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Beloved pimento cheese! What a reminder of home! Yours looks way better than any that I’ve normally had down in Louisiana. I love that you used Cabot Cheese….which is a must at our house by the way. There’s nothing finer! I, also, love that you have used the roasted red peppers. What a fantastic idea! And the addition of cayenne pepper to kick it up is sheer genius! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’m going to have to make it now. :)

Wendy July 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Pimento cheese is all the rage these days, it seems! Thank you from our farm family owners for using Cabot Cheese. I love your post and your pix and will share it on our Facebook page!

Tova July 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

oh, pimiento cheese…I love that stuff so much and I’ve never even lived in the south. Something about that combo of cheddar and mayonnaise plus the sweet red pepper is downright addictive!

OffTheCuffCooking July 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I bet that would be good broiled on some toasted bread or something, too…

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