I was sitting at my kitchen table with the BF and friends staying the night with us, all working on our laptops and sharing a bottle of wine. I was struggling with what to write for this post, so I said, “Finish this sentence: Pimento cheese is as Southern as…”
I got a lot of inappropriate answers that are probably best not to share here. Let’s just say that the bottle of wine really had the jokes flowing.
I actually thought I hated pimento cheese. I am a North Carolina native, a Tar Heel born and bred, but my family isn’t particularly Southern, more just a typical suburban American family. And I grew up in a part of North Carolina where I went to school mostly with transplant kids, from places like New York, New Hampshire, India, and China.
So pimento cheese… This was not a thing my mom made. I’d only ever had store-bought stuff, which is super nasty. The pre-shredded “cheese product” tastes more like wax than cheddar, and there’s always wayyy too much mayonnaise. Nasty. But I tasted a gourmet pimento cheese at a friend’s a few months ago, and I started to reconsider. It wasn’t perfect, and it still had too much mayo, but it was good enough that it got me thinking. So I decided to make my own.
I researched recipes for a long time, trying to figure out what I would like. I ended up going off on my own thing because I couldn’t find anything that sounded good.
But after trying some of this… goodness, it was so delicious! I mean, I ate so much cheese. So much cheese. You can’t really tell scale from that first picture, but that’s a HUGE bowl.
For book club, we’d read I Capture the Castle, a lovely coming-of-age story about a teenage girl living in genteel poverty in England. So to keep with the theme, we made tea party food: tea sandwiches, quiche, fruit salad, scones. I made three varieties of tea sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese, peanut butter and raspberry jelly, and — the club favorite — pimento cheese. It was a lovely English/Southern fusion, and I highly recommend it. The pimento cheese was so popular that after we polished off all the little sandwiches, I set out the bowl of leftovers and some crackers, and we went to town on that too!
A little note on the recipe: the cheddar is my favorite part, and if that’s yours too, you might consider changing your cheese ratio to 1 lb cheddar and 1/2 lb colby jack. The cheddar is definitely a requirement, but you also might consider swapping out the colby jack for another favorite cheese — maybe a pepper jack for a bit more kick, or maybe a creamy monterey jack. Oh! Another requirement: take the time to grate fresh cheese yourself. Waxy, flavorless, pre-shredded cheese is NOT allowed in my house.
3/4 lb extra sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 lb colby jack, grated
1 (4 oz) jar pimentos, drained
1/2 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 T mayo
In a small bowl, stir together the mayo and spices. Add the pimentos.
In a large bowl, add the grated cheese. Carefully stir the mayo and pimento mixture into the cheese.
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