I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the first time I ever saw pimento cheese. I was a northern bred 11-year-old, in North Carolina for my first extended stay. I was going to camp and when lunch rolled around I expected tuna, or chicken salad or cold cuts. Instead, I got pimento cheese- a combination of sharp orange cheddar, mayonnaise, Tabasco sauce and diced pimentos (those little red things that come inside martini olives). It was heaven. And unlike so many childhood favorites like Kool-Aid and Ring Dings, this one still tastes good.
Southerners have an intimate relationship with this stuff, the recipe for which varies from family to family. But get much north of Tennessee and pimento cheese gets as rare as red dirt and Nehi. I remember as an adolescent being so blown away pimento cheese that it was one of the first things I showed my mom when I got home. But she didn’t share my affinity for “cheese salad,” so the sandwich became a summer treat. After I stopped going to camp, I forgot about the stuff for years.
I got a hankering for it a few days ago, and was delighted to find pimentos in the pickle aisle at my grocery store- though I have no idea what else you use them for (any suggestions? Please leave ‘em in the comment section!). I had people over for dinner that night and they were pretty blown away, which is awesome, cause this stuff is really easy to make.
The thing about pimento cheese is that it’s versatile. You can slap it between to pieces of white bread for a quick lunch or tea sandwich. Or put a bowl of it out with crackers and veggies and let it act as a dip. The Varsity in Atlanta serves it on hotdogs and cheese burgers. This week, I slathered it on thin slices of bread and popped them in the oven just long enough to get melty and delicious. Then this morning, I mixed it into an omelet. Go ahead, give it a try.
1 lb grated sharp orange cheese
2 oz diced pimentos (half of a 4 oz jar)
Mayonnaise (low-fat is ok)
A few dashes Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
Mix the pimetos and cheese in a bowl and add enough mayonnaise to keep it all together (so it’s the consistency of chicken salad). Add a few dashes of Tabasco, a sprinkle of black pepper and you’re good to go.