I can’t think of anything more American that Pimiento Cheese, not even apple pie. Those of you who didn’t grow up with the little glass jars of this special treat may not know what I’m talking about – it was a yellow cheese spread with flecks of roasted red peppers, called pimientos, that was best served on Ritz Crackers. The spread was as memorable as the jars it came in, artfully molded containers that doubled as juice glasses when the cheese was all eaten. In fact, we also ate a pineapple cheese spread from a similar glass jar so that we could collect enough glasses for the breakfast table.
Today, the processed spread is a thing of the past and one that I had long forgotten until my friend gifted my family a cookbook by Hugh Acheson, A New Turn In the South. Low and behold, there in the appetizer section was a simple recipe for homemade pimiento cheese. And I have to tell you, I will never go back to the little glass jar after eating this simple but very rich concoction.
Curious? Here is the recipe as we made it (I’m afraid I was a little lazy and didn’t make the homemade mayonnaise nor did I roast my own red peppers but one day I’ll make sure to make the honest to goodness homemade version). This is a special occasion kind of dish as it is expensive to make (cheese doesn’t come cheap) and it’s not the healthiest choice. As I tell my kids, it’s about balance and this one tips the scale pretty heavily.
1 lb of white sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 large roasted red peppers, patted dry and finely diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise, no fake fat allowed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbl smoked paprika
a pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp kosher salt
You basically mix this all together in a big bowl. Then find a jar with a lid, pack it full of the cheese mixture, seal it and let it sit in your refrigerator as long as you dare. Our first batch didn’t last an hour. We’ve gotten a little more judicious in our usage since then but be warned, it’s addictive.