The Namesake

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Okay. So there are about as many recipes for pimento cheese as there are ways to eat it (with crackers, on celery, in a sandwich, with a spoon straight out of the bowl…you get the idea). And apparently the real spelling is pimiento, but I prefer the Southern bastardized version—pimento. I looked it up in Webster’s, so it’s legit. As long as you pronounce it “pamenna,” you’re fine.

Anyway, the best pimento cheese I’ve ever had is a variation of the kind that my grandmother, Mema, made—and probably pretty close to my other grandmother’s (Winnie’s) version as well—except that it’s made by the expert hands of my cousin David:

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It’s his speciality, and when I talked to him on the phone Saturday morning to get the recipe, he was very specific about the ingredients; the cheese must be extra-sharp, the mayonnaise must be Hellman’s, etc. Kind of funny coming from my redheaded 19-year-old cousin who just finished up his freshman year at Georgia, instead of my mom or her two sisters.

So off I went to Safeway, only to find that they didn’t have Hellman’s. Now, when I couldn’t find grits there, it was understandable—but Hellman’s? I didn’t think that was a Southern thing. The jar of pimentos, however, was straight from Johnson City, Tenn., home of one of my favorite bands.

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This is the perfect early-afternoon snack for the day after you get back from a weekend in Portland, where you ate at a great taco place, went to the Avett Brothers concert, stayed with good friends, then took the long way back to Seattle along the stunningly beautiful Oregon coast.

David’s Pimento Cheese

*makes…hmm, I’m pretty bad at estimating things like this. It makes enough to fill up about half of a big container of yogurt. Hope that helps.

1 lb. block of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (not the kind that’s already shredded)
1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 jar diced pimentos (per David, throw in the whole jar, juice and all)
cayenne pepper to taste (I ended up using about a teaspoon, maybe a bit more)

Grate cheese with a grater that has small-ish holes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir it up, and enjoy! I recommend eating with Triscuits, celery, or as a grilled cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato.

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16 thoughts on “The Namesake

  1. Love pimento cheese, The Avett Brothers and the everybodyfields and this post! I prefer Duke’s Mayonnaise to Hellman’s (in pimento cheese and everything) but you probably can’t get that in the NW either.

    • Thanks for your comment! Sounds like you have good taste in music. I haven’t seen Duke’s up here, either—but I finally found a store that carries grits (and not just the quick cooking kind)!

  2. just watched your mom make this!!! (since i might not be able to get the hellmann’s in russia, i’ll be experimenting with the russian’s many mayonaises!)

  3. This is the EXACT recipe I grew up eating! I make it now for my children and they love to spread it on celery. I’ve had grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, but not with tomatoes…I’ll certainly try that! Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Thanks for this post- I’m from California, and have not inherited a family recipe for Pimiento Cheese. There is a mention of it in an excellent book by Jo Brans (Feast Here Awhile)- she describes her mother making it for school-day lunches and the passage was so interesting that now I want to make it! For the record, Hellman’s mayonnaise is also sold under the label of “Best Foods” in some areas.

  5. Hello, just browsing and arrived here. I’ve made this with finely chopped cooked red bell peppers (steamed or roasted) and that way is good, too.

  6. Where they don’t have Hellmans, look for “Best Foods”.
    Same company, same mayo just a different name west of the rockies..
    I’m thinking adding a tad cottage cheese or jack.(Not pepper jack)

  7. My mom always makes hers with Velveeta cheese – so in order to get the smoothness I grew up with I use about a quarter to a half cup cream cheese – otherwise this is how I make it! Yum!

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  9. Mike on “Better Call Saul” recently called it the “caviar of the south” and ever since I have been dreaming of getting a tub and spreading it on white bread like I had in elementary school lunch. Trouble is, I live in Seattle now and it has not been easy to find pamenna cheese lately. Good news is that when I do find it, I never have to worry about someone else in the house eating it!

    • That’s funny – me being from southern Indiana and living in South Carolina there are a lot of the foods that are the same. Not all, but that’s okay because it means that some of my comfort foods are safe from anyone else eating them! Secret: Sometimes I make things that I know no one else will eat (like) so I can have them all for myself!

  10. Have you ever heard of a pimento cheese recipe that uses Karo Syrup? It was posted by a 93 year old grandma, sharing her secret for delicious pimento cheese. The recipe used Velveeta.

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