This NPR story is perhaps the best introduction to Pimento Cheese, should you have no idea what it is (or have only eaten grocery store stuff – eeeoww.). But my recipe is more complicated than his!
Pimento cheese is so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don’t realize our passion for the stuff doesn’t exist outside the region. Call me provincial, but I was shocked (shocked!) when I learned that everyday people from Boston to San Diego don’t slap pimento cheese on bread for a quick lunch, or slather it across their burgers for a decadent treat.
While its origins are somewhat murky, it became widely accepted and available sometime in the early 1900s, after a period of development and incubation on Southern farms.
Image: Mac and Cheese
Kathy’s Northwest-Inspired Pimento Cheese
~1 lb sharp or extra-sharp cheddar (I use Tillamook, made in Oregon)
~3/4 lb pepper jack (ditto)
~1/4 lb medium cheddar
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
~3 T Worcestershire sauce
~1 T Mayo (eg Hellman’s – Not Miracle Whip!)
4 oz diced pimentos (usually in the canned vegetable aisle on a top shelf)
1 large red bell pepper, roasted
Black and Cayenne pepper
I use a KitchenAid mixer to prepare this dish; some people use a food processor. My aunt used a sausage grinder; I don’t remember how my granny made it, just that it was a summer constant, usually served on celery but also white bread sandwiches.
Also, the quality of the cheese determines the quality of the pimento cheese. Bad stuff in, bad stuff out.
(1) Roast the bell pepper on the grill until the skin is black. Let it cool. Remove skin, stem and seeds. Chop.
(2) Coursely grate the cheese.
(3) Add about 1/3 of the grated cheese to the mixing bowl and lightly blend, followed by 1/3 cream cheese. Repeat until all the cheeses are blended. The mixture should be clumpy; you’ll need to push it around a bit with a spatula.
(4) Add the mayo and Worchestershire sauce. Blend slightly.
(5) Add the pimentos and bell pepper. Blend; the mixture should now be partially creamy with clumps of cheese and peppers. Add black and cayenne pepper to taste.
(6) Place the mixture in an airtight container. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on top. Refrigerate.
Let the pimento cheese sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers or celery. Enjoy!