Pimento Cheese is a Southern food, and in grocery stores south of the Mason Dixon Line, you can buy it in great tubs from competing purveyors.
I’m not entirely sure that Pimento Cheese was part of my childhood, although my Mother was fond of cream cheese and stuffed olive sandwiches. Nonetheless, I claimed the taste memory at my 35th high school reunion (Northwestern High School, Hyattsville, MD, Class of ’67.) At a small gathering during the weekend, Pam Zirkle pulled out a big bowl of her Mom’s Pimento Cheese that had been hand-delivered from Virginia. I couldn’t get enough, but, uncharacteristically, didn’t ask for the recipe.
Armed with the taste memory and determination to make this one of My Party Foods, I found a recipe in the ever-reliable Jean Anderson’s American Century Cookbook. Traditionally, of course, traditional Pimento Cheese contains actual jarred pimentos, however, I couldn’t find them in the grocery store, and again, uncharacteristically, failed to ask. I settled on roasted red peppers and have never looked back.
This is great party food. Make it two or three days in advance. Set it out in bowls surrounded by Wheat Thins (my favorite) or vegetables, and voila! It will disappear.
Pimento cheese makes wonderful sandwiches, it thins to sauce pasta, and it gives new life to tomato soup. Lacking roasted peppers, I have made it with jarred hot giardiniera.
Not “Pimento” Cheese, adapted from American Century Cookbook, by Jean Anderson, p. 353.
1 pound 16-month old Cabot White Cheddar (or the white or yellow sharp cheddar of your choice)
1 8-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained.
3 T minced fresh onion or 1 T dried onion
2/3 cup light Miracle Whip (or the mayo-like product of your choice)
2 tsp brown mustard
1/2 tsp (or more) fine ground black and cayenne pepper
4 tsp (+ or -) milk or cream (non-fat milk to cream, your choice)
IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR
1. Grate the cheese. Remove it to a large bowl.
2. Process the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the milk.
3. Return the cheese to the processor and add enough milk to make a thick paste.
4. Chill overnight.
5. Serve at room temperature with Wheat Thins, in celery sticks, as a sandwich spread or on pasta. Spread on split or small rounds of baguette and broil.