Food + Wine

Pimento Cheese because pimento cheeeeeeeeeessssse

I realize I may be speaking to a small group of you with this post, and I can’t just say it’s a South v. North thing.  Because my husband, born and raised in the Carolinas, had not eaten Pimento Cheese, nor did he even know what it was, until we started dating.  He tried it for the first time, with my family, on the Wrightsville Beach sand, Fourth of July circa…2001?  We even got it on video.  That’s how shocked we were that he had never had it before.

(It should also be said that he thought it Pimentos were fish.  Which, I suppose explains why he’d never wanted to try it before… tiny red fish pieces suspended in mayo and grated cheese does not sound particularly appetizing.)

I’m extremely picky about my Pimento Cheese. I believe it is only to be made with the sharpest of cheddars.  So anything that reads ‘severely sharp’ or ‘razor sharp’ or ‘holy crap is this thing sharp’ cheddar are to be considered here.  (I tell you my favorite (easy to find in every supermarket) brand in the recipe portion below.)  It should never be made with anything less.  It should not contain onions or herbs of any kind.  No mustard.  Also no olives (seriously?!).  It should not be pureed or whipped.  It should be spatula mixed and textured.  I should see the shreds of cheese mixed in.  And it should have a little kick to it.

Otherwise, you’re just eating Depressing Mayonnaise Cheese.

I grew up with Pimento Cheese as only a dip/spread… not as a sandwich. However…my oldest child loves a Pimento Cheese Sandwich in his lunchbox.  So, whenever I make some for a party (fairly often, I suppose?), I always reserve some for his lunch the next day.

I think Pimento Cheese is simply perfect (and fun, and comforting, but also exciting) whether you dip some celery sticks into it, or bagel chips or pita chips or Triscuit crackers… or if you decide to spread it on a couple slices of soft bread and eat it as a sandwich.  This photo below just so happens to be a Pimento Cheese Sandwich made using my homemade Whole Wheat Italian Boule, which is my swear by, hands down amazing, bread recipe for all things ripping and tearing and sandwiching.

It was also my son’s school lunch on that particular day.

It’s such a humble dish- Pimento Cheese.  It doesn’t cost a lot to make.  It’s easy.  There’s barely anything to it. It’s like that one friend you can always turn to, who will always be there for you, no matter what.  The friend you don’t have to get dressed up for, or clean your house for.  That’s Pimento Cheese in the culinary world.  It’s just… simple.  And reliable.

But if you choose the right ingredients, it’ll sing.  And trust me when I say the pipes on mine are stellar.

ABBEY’S PIMENTO CHEESE

makes about 2-2 1/2 cups, roughly 6 servings

  • 8 oz brick extra sharp cheddar, shredded (I prefer white (sorry, y’all, but cheese ain’t naturally yeller) and swear by ‘Cabot Cheese – Seriously Sharp‘)
  • 2 oz jar diced pimentos 
  • large, gloopy spoonful of mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s. Not Duke’s. I know, I know. My granny is rolling over as I type this.)
  • spoonful of (full fat) plain yogurt
  • spoonful of softened cream cheese
  • cayenne pepper to taste (start with 1/4 tsp and add more as needed)
  • fat pinch kosher salt

Basically, what I do is mix and then adjust if necessary… Usually I find that about an equal amount of mayo, yogurt, cream cheese, is perfect (a little larger amount of the mayo). Taste it as you mix and you’ll be a good judge.  It should be creamy, tangy, and salty.

I don’t like my Pimento Cheese runny.  I simply and completely do not.  (Have I mentioned I don’t like mayo?  That may be why….) But no- I like it stiff, but spreadable.  So if you get to the end of making this and it’s just not what you prefer, then you just do you, baby.

Don’t forget that you can butter and toast that sucker up there for a Grilled Pimento Cheese when the weather starts turning!  …Damn.  That plus a bowl of Homemade Tomato Soup will cure just about anything.

Thanks for reading, y’all!  I hope you have an extra sharp weekend. And if you don’t hear from me here in the next couple of days, it’s because I’m out of town on a writing assignment, so you can catch up with my dailies by following me on Instagram!  I promise I’ll be there 😉

xoxo, Abbey

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4 Comments

  • Reply Gail September 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Abbey, I haven’t found anywhere to buy pimento cheese in DC–so I always make my own. And though no two pimento cheese recipes are, of course, exactly the same (I always need a little sweet pickle relish and grated onion in mine), I’m completely with you on Hellmann’s and Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar.

    • Reply Everyday Champagne September 16, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Hahaha!! This is why I love food discussions. And you’re absolutely right- no recipe is the same! It was hard for me to even type this one out, as (truth be told) this has always been one of those ‘dump and mix’ things for me. I’m wondering… Were you raised with relish and onion in yours? Or was it something you played around with on your own? Because I was raised with it being plain and similar to this, so that’s why I think I’m such a stickler for it!

  • Reply Gail September 17, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Your recipe (and some great red peppers at the Eastern Market, the granddaddy of all farmers’ markets) inspired me to make pimento cheese today. I roasted those big boys and steamed them in a paper bag and then peeled off the skin, then chopped the best sweet/hot pickles I had (but left out the onion this time), made a grated mix of half Cabot’s Seriously Sharp and half an Amish homemade pepperjack (and a bit of cream cheese and a bit of mayonnaise and just a dab of agave nectar, salt and pepper). Definitely a week’s worth of delicious. I don’t remember, to be honest, my mother ever making her own pimento cheese–but a big container of pimento cheese and a baked ham went to every beach vacation that I ever took my own family to.

    • Reply Everyday Champagne September 18, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Aww. I love that I inspired something! Ha. Especially if it’s cheese related. I need to try your recipe. You may be the one who can broaden my Pimento Cheese horizon!! That sounds wonderful. And so different from mine. Which is what makes this so damn fun. And my mom ALWAYS had Pimento Cheese when we went to the beach in the summers. Always. Thanks so much, Gail. Xo

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