(Originally published July 11, 2013 MMM Foodies)
Pimento cheese. In the South, you might just hear “minner cheese”. I grew up eating pimento cheese sandwiches on good ole Wonder Bread, sometimes toasted. It’s strange how, as children, there are some things we eat without even thinking about it; but if given the components seperately, there are at least some we wouldn’t have touched! Take pimentos, for example: I would never have eaten a pimento by itself. Heck, I pulled them out of olives to avoid them! But blend them with some cheese and mayonnaise, and they lend a distinctive flavor that is delicious.
As a little boy, my Mom always bought Palmetto Farms brand pimento cheese from the Winn Dixie grocery store chain. That’s what I grew up on and that’s what I liked. Now that Winn Dixie is practically gone except for a small number of stores in Florida and the Carribean, I can’t get that brand anymore. I would still buy it if I could, even though it was not made with cheddar cheese. It was made with American Cheese, I believe. Anyway, Palmetto Farms is gone. There are plenty of other brands, but frankly, most of them suck. I’m sorry, but they do. Then you have some pimento cheese being made fresh in-store in some places. Some of it is very good, but the prices are steep. I’ve seen $8.00 per pound or more! My recipe will make almost two pounds and won’t cost more than a total of $8.00. And if you get your cheese on sale, you might get it done for less than $6.00! So, $3.00 per pound sounds a LOT better, doesn’t it?!
2 lbs Pimento Cheese
Luckily, I have, in a past life, been the designated pimento cheese maker for a well-known regional gourmet market! I learned the intricate workings and arcane incantations required to produce a top notch batch of “minner cheese”, ya’ll and I’m going to pass those secrets on to you! Okay, here we go: mix shredded cheddar cheese with mayonnaise and pimentos…aaaand , that’s it. No really! Sure, some people want to go all “I’m going to take this to a new level!” and add all kinds of other “secret ingredients”, but that just isn’t the way I like it. Palmetto Farms even had a version with sweet pickle relish (gag!) and one with jalapenos. With the famous pairing of pimentos with olives, I’ve seen that version too. If you want to “take it to a new level”, you go right ahead! I might add a little fresh black pepper, but that’s about as crazy as I get.
Recently, I had someone ask me for an suggestion for some bridal shower food that isn’t too labor intensive. Unlike many people who were raised eating celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins (ick) or cream cheese mixed with a packet of dry italian dressing mix (not bad), our choice was pimento cheese. So, I started thinking about what is coming out of the garden right now and I decided that slices of cucumber, yellow squash and zucchini topped with pimento cheese would make a nice, cool, bite-sized Summer appetizer. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think mixing 1 part Boursin or Alouette with 2 parts cream cheese would be good, too. Anyway, I tried the pimento cheese option and it was good! I used a small scoop to put the pimento cheese onto the slices. Feedback at home was that the squash was really good, but I could have used a little less pimento cheese. The cucumbers were described as a little “wet”. (I liked both, personally, and I’m not a big cucumber fan.
Cucumber and Squash Pimento Cheese Bites
Okay, before we get started, let me just say, if you want to make your own mayonnaise, more power to you! If you want to shred your cheese yourself, please do! I don’t want discourage you. But I want to make this accessible to everyone, so I’m showing the shortcuts that I am satisfied with taking myself. Now, you’re going to see in my photos, that I used Hellman’s mayo to make my pimento cheese. Some of you are going to gasp and wring your hands and fret over the fact that I didn’t use Duke’s Mayonnaise. I know, I know. I encourage you to use Duke’s! I love Duke’s so much, I hope they will someday be a sponsor! But, in this case, I had the other brand on hand as a concession to those around me who were not lucky enough to be born Southerners. With that said, let’s move along, shall we? Enjoy!
2 8oz bags of Sharp Cheddar Shredded Cheese (fine shred)
1 cup Mayonnaise (I know…preferably Duke’s Mayonnaise!)
1 4oz jar of pimentos, sliced or diced, with any liquid in jar
How simple can it be?!
You can make this manually, without a mixer, but the shreds won’t break up as much. Put all ingredients in a mixer and start at a slower speed to mix. Increase speed to high to break up the shreds and pimentos some. Stop and scrape down the sides. Mix for another 30 seconds or so on medium high to high. Transfer to a storage container with a lid and refrigerate. Mixture will firm up and flavors will blend, if you have an hour to let it chill.
Ready to mix
There are lots of things you can do with pimento cheese. Sandwiches, (plain, toasted or grilled), veggie bites and celery stuffing are just the beginning. You can top a hamburger, eat it with crackers, stir into some chili. How about chili-pimento cheese fries? Pimento cheese omelet, perhaps? Don’t go too crazy, but enjoy!