A New Look at a Childhood Favorite: Pimento Cheese

Growing up one of my mother’s favorite snacks was pimento cheese. Perhaps it’s because we lived in the north (I’ve since learned it’s a longtime southern favorite), but she never made her own. Instead, she bought this small jarred version of pimento cheese. For a special treat for all of us, she’d put tiny squares of rye bread topped with pimento cheese on a plate. I thought they were okay, but as a girl, would have preferred another snack.

I didn’t think about pimento cheese for years until I was at a local restaurant a few months ago and discovered that one of their appetizers is pimento cheese. Curious, I decided to order some. What a revelation! This pimento cheese was tasty, with big chunks of pimento (unlike my mother’s jarred version that was perfectly smooth) and a variety of seasonings, some giving a bit of heat to the mixture. At the restaurant, they serve it with celery pieces, which provide a lovely contrast to the heat of the cheese. Clearly this is not my mother’s pimento cheese.

When I got home I began checking out the web for information about pimento cheese and discovered all kinds of recipes and over Thanksgiving I made a modified version of a recipe at the Texas Co-Op Power site.  I loved the addition of green olives and capers to the cheese. I cut back on the mayonnaise (and used a “light” version). I added Tabasco sauce but not jalapenos. And because I’m not overly fond of raw onions I used part of a shallot instead, as I usually find shallots to be quite mild. That’s where I went wrong. I had tasted the cheese before I added the shallot and quite liked it. But I must have picked up a super-strong shallot, because once added it completely overwhelmed the mixture. I put it in the refrigerator overnight hoping the flavors would all meld together, but the onion taste was still overwhelming. Fortunately I discovered that the mixture made a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, so used it that way. But it wasn’t what I’d planned.

I may try the same recipe again over Christmas, but this time will use onion powder rather than raw onions. Alternatively, I’ve found a number of other recipes from basic to more fancy. I found a recipe at allrecipes.com that includes cream cheese, which also sounds interesting. I’ve also seen some recipes where people roast their own red peppers rather than using pimentos; I think I’ll stick with the pimentos.

Have you ever made pimento cheese? If so, what do you like to put in it. And have you ever discovered a completely different version of something your mother prepared?


5 thoughts on “A New Look at a Childhood Favorite: Pimento Cheese

  1. Missie

    Pimento cheese truly is a Southern favorite…I’ve even known folks who will use it to dress their hamburgers! (It takes the place of any dressing on the hamburger, as well as any cheese.)

    It is a handy snack on crackers or a nice sandwich. Making your own is a bit tricky — what seems a yummy addition in the initial taste test isn’t necessarily so great when it’s all said and done (says the woman who thought using that last bit of habanero cheddar as part of the pimento cheese mixture would be a good idea).

    Part of the joy — and sometimes the frustration — of making things yourself is that it can take some time to make the balance right. Give it another go; I’ll bet you’ll find your perfect balance yet. :-)

    That’s part of the joy and

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  2. Linnae

    Who knew? My mother purchased the same pimento cheese in a small jar. You could keep the jar as a small juice glass when it was empty. Ah….the memories. I’ve never tried to make it and I didn’t realize it was a southern tradition. I was raised in the north, too. :>) I’ll have to check into the recipes and try it for New Year’s Eve.

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  3. Leigh

    My uncle whose was from South Carolina used to make it everytime he visited. I liked it okay, but wasn’t crazy about it. Kroger had some on sale just recently from the deli department. They put out samples for shoppers to try, and I ended up buying some. I not sure what type of cheese they used – but it was more creamy light yellow and it was spiced up more than my uncle’s.

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  4. cork_dork_mom

    I remember the pimento cheese in the little jars – it was a specialty, didn’t have it often. I now live in the south and the older ladies in my Eastern Star chapter often bring pimento cheese sanwiches. Never knew those existed but I’m hooked on them!

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