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:
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.
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.