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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pimiento Cheese: The Classic Southern Sandwich, Y'all









Listen, call me old fashioned, but when the weather goes from this:

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to this:

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I start thinking about pimiento cheese sandwiches.

What?

Well, I do.

Not following my train of thought? Okay, I'll break it down for y'all. It's morning afterall, you're still sleepy.

When the weather hits about 65°, sun shinin', bird's singin', sky skyin' its deepest, darkest shade of blue, Mama can't resist but to drag out her pickanic basket and get packin'. And to me, it's not a picnic if you aren't serving up some homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.

(And some fried chicken.)

(And don't forget the deviled eggs.)

(ARGH. Now I'm hungry.)

Which is why on Sunday when we woke up and took a quick peek outside, confirmed our suspicions that THIS IS THE MOST PERFECT DAY GOD EVER MADE, EVER, I sprang from my bed, trounced down to my kitchen, and gathered up what I'd need to mix up a batch what I consider to be The Eighth Wonder, my Mom's recipe for homemade pimiento cheese.

OHMYGRANNY.

Now I love pretty much any pimiento cheese, except for maybe that weird stuff you buy in buckets out of the cold foods section of the grocery store. That stuff is usually waaaaaaaay too sweet and may, based on its color, texture and taste, not even be made out of any actual real cheese at all. But REAL pimento cheese, to me, is as much a harbinger of spring as the first probing shoots of daffodil stems peeking out into the cold FebRUary wind.

It appears to me that like many of the things I love, pimiento cheese is a Southern thang. Case in point, when I first got out of school and moved to Wisconsin for a couple years, I went into my local grocery store to buy pimiento-cheese fixins and couldn't locate the pimientos. I searched and I quested and I rooted, scoured and dug, and there were no pimientos to be found.

"Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" I asked a store clerk.

"Could you say that in English?" he requested.

Hmmmmmmmm. I don't know how to say "Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" in Wisconsinite. It doesn't translate. See? Southern thang. At the BiLo's in my home town, they have a red tape line on the floor that goes direc'ly from the front door to the location of the pimientos. With signs along the way that say, "Y'all lookin' fer the pee-minners? They ovah heeyah."

True story: Last weekend Al and I watched the last couple hours of The Masters on TV. (MY GOSH y'all that course is the prettiest place in the world. I fully expect when I die to look into the light for as long as my eyes can take it, blink, and then open 'em again to behold Amen Corner, St. Peter lookin' up from the green to whisper, "Be with you right after God sinks this putt for the birdie. Rejoice quietly to yourself for a minute, m'kay?")

(It's a notoriously tough hole, y'all!)

We both sat riveted as some fancy camera and computer work gave us the ball's eye view of the fairway after Tiger sailed a drive off the 17th tee, up, up and over. Al watched the arc of the ball, noted the location of the pin, and, moaning a little, offered up, "Oh, he's not gonna like that one."

Me? I'm shouting "Oh, a little more to the left! Little more to the left! C'mon ball! Go LEFT!"

"It's nothing but TREES to the left, woman. What are you saying?"

"I know. The ball's going in the rough. Sigh. I was just hopin' to catch a glimpse of one of the little green shacks where they sell the pimiento cheese sandwiches."

Yeah, even at The Masters, with Tiger five strokes over but closing the gap quickly, pimiento cheese can steal the show. Well, my show anyway.

But even that pimiento cheese, pimiento cheese good enough for St. Peter and Tiger himself, can't hold a candle to my Mom's pimiento cheese.

Which is why, even this far into a post that is already entirely too long, I'ma tell y'all how to make it. And y'all'll thank me for this, one day, I can promise you that.

FriedOkra's Mama's Pimiento Cheese (alternatively known as Pimiento AND Cheese)

Here's what you'll need.

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And if you like things really spicy, you'll want to bring this guy to the party, too.

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  • 2 cups grated SHARP cheddar - But if you want to be exactly like my Mom, buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. (Don't bother with anything milder. It just won't hold up to the other flavors.)
  • 1/3ish cup Hellmann's mayo (I may be thrifty, but when it comes to mayo, Mama don't play.)
  • a PEENCH of onion powder
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, diced eversofine
  • A little jar of pimentos, drained (I forgot to note how many ounces it was. But it's TINY.)
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Tabasco® to taste


Now, I will be honest with y'all. I normally perpetrate this entire deal in my food processor, because I dig the ease with which everything comes together AND you know, it's easy. But for the sake of the pictures and to entertain the Bean, who was "helping" me in the kitchen, I did it all by hand.

Dice your jalapeño up very fine. And please, PLEASE wear gloves or do like I did and slip a plastic bag over your hand so you don't get jalapeño juice on you. Oh, the stories I could tell you about accidental contact with jalapeño juice. But that's for another day, people. Another day.

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Now put all of your ingredients into a great big mixing bowl.

What? You don't know what a peench of onion salt is?

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'Bout like that.

Aaaand stir.

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Mix it all together well. Until it's creamy and dotted with green and red bits and starting to make your mouth water.

The only way. I SAID THE ONLY WAY! To serve pimiento cheese in sandwich form is on PLAIN OLD WHITE WONDER BREAD. To put it on anything else would be an utter and complete travesty.

BEHOLD PERFECTION.

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(ALTHOUGH, and I'm only telling you this because you are dear friends and I love you and want you to experience the best life has to offer, this spread is also phenomenal on a toasted sesame bagel AND, as completely unconventional as this sounds, you will be amazed at what a fancy and delicious little hors d'oeuvre it makes if you spread it on little crostini and put it under the broiler for a minute! Maybe garnish it with a slice of jalapeno or a little sliver of roasted red pepper? Mmmm.)



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And last but not least, for it to be official - an Official Pickanic-Approved Pimiento Cheese Sandwich - you have to wrap it in wax paper. Incidentally, when I pulled out our pimento cheese sandwiches for the picnic we had this past Sunday, Al said, umprompted, "Aw. They're even wrapped in wax paper. Mama, you think of everything. It just wouldn't be a picnic if the sandwiches weren't wrapped in wax paper."

Do you see why I love this man? Do you?

And when you've wrapped your sammiches in the wax paper, you'll need to start referring to your picnic basket as a hamper. And you'll need to wear a freshly ironed gingham dress with a Peter Pan collar to the picnic. And a chiffon scarf tied over your hairdo, and some black cat-eye sunglasses. Like I do.

'Cause I'm old fashioned like that.

27 comments:

  1. You are hilarious. I will have to make that pimento cheese recipe soon. We have no shortage of pimento here in Texas.

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  2. Thanks so much! I've been looking for a great pimento recipe. I'm definitely a southern girl and it's a staple here and I hate the grocery store premade stuff!

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  3. Oh Megan, will you still be my friend if I confess to LOVING the sweet store-bought stuff? I sometimes crave it when I'm pregant!!

    Still, I might have to try your recipe just to see what I've been missing. Aer the jalapenos optional, or is there any substitute for thems? No one in my family cares much for 'em.

    ~Jeanne

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  4. I'm totally taking note of the pimento cheese recipe. I'm the only one in my house that will eat it, but I suspect it's only because my kids haven't had the real thing yet. And wax paper? I thought my family was the only family on earth that did that. So good to know it's a Southern thang.

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  5. Oh, my!!! a recipe for the real old-fashioned down home good for what ails you pimento spread!!!
    My sister at Birds Nest will be absolutely thrilled! Hope she's checking you out today. (I'm trying it out myself after a quick trip to Wally World today for Hellman's) Thanx, Megan!
    Southern IL Reader - Cathy

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  6. It's a good thing I didn't get around to reading this post until lunch time. I may be a Yankee but that looks and sounds yummy!

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  7. Well Martha...

    This looks like a Pimmenocheese sandwich that I would actually like. I bet it would be good grilled?!?

    You are right about the sandwiches at the Masters - they are yummy. We went to a couple of practice rounds several years ago (when tickets were fairly easy to come by and we were DINK-y), and it is an amazing place.

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  8. Thanks for the recipe -- I am always looking for a great pimento cheese recipe and I was just thinking about it this morning as I contemplate my upcoming beach trip - which is not complete with a homemade pimento cheese sandwich -- and by the by - I am in Augusta -- thanks for the kind words!!

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  9. Harris Teeter makes a wonderful Pepper Jack Pimento cheese and it is delicious spread on baguette slices and toasted in the oven.

    When I lived in Charlotte, there was an HT on every corner so I was never very far from my fix...I love me some HT Pepper Jack pimento cheese. Where I live now though, I'm at least 18 minutes from an HT (not that I've timed it or anything!)

    But your recipe might get me pretty close! I'll have to give it a whirl!

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  10. I've never, ever heard of that before, but I think it looks GOOD!

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  11. That's another southern thing I've not heard of, but it sounds goooood! I'll have to try it. Next time you go on a pickininc, take a picture. I want to see you in that dress and wearing those glasses!

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  12. Oooh that makes me hungry! Thanks for sharing your recipe I appreciate all your recipes but this is one I've actually always wondered how to make!

    Thanks for your note on my other diary by the way. You always seem to know what to say to make me feel better :)

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  13. Even though, as I noted before, I don't like pimento cheese, I am just horrified that Beck hasn't even heard of it!!!

    Those silly Canucks.

    And, I'll admit, this DOES sound good. And I stand before you today and PROMISE that I will try this. Yes ma'am I will!

    xo ~K

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  14. ummmm I totally want to like it....really I do...but it seems the only ingredient I like in there is the cheese. sigh....I'm such a pansy.

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  15. Even though I'm from the south and pimento cheese sandwiches are almost a religion, I've never really liked them...but, honey, reading this makes me wanna give 'em another try!

    And I like that you're old fashioned like that!

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  16. Oh My.......

    I think you really are a Southern Belle. I wasn't convinced until I saw this, now I know FER SUUUURE!


    I Put small cubes of deviled ham in mine.

    At a hen's pace...if you make sure to take out all the seeds the jalapenos aren't hot. A little zesty, but all the heat's in dem thar seeds.

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  17. Delurking to say, YUMMMM. I love me some good pimento cheese spread. That stuff in the tubs in the grocery is junk. It truly is a southern thing too because I now live in Colorado (thanks to the USAF) and though I have nothing against this beautiful place, jarred pimentos are scarce. I grew up in Florida and am very familiar with your recipe!! If I can find some pimentos, I'm going to try this one out. I sooo miss good pimento spread. Thanks for this recipe.

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  18. Well I can't say I have ever been fond of pimento but you do make these sound pretty tempting. I dolike the idea of using it as a appetizer/snack on bagels or crackers.

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  19. Hmmm - at least your pregnancy cravings are for this kind of thing! Mine want the dumbest stuff - cake batter, chocolate pudding, fresh brewed ice tea... Ham salad.

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  20. Do you know that, not only have I never eaten a pimento cheese sandwich, I have never ever had anything pimento.

    Please put me out of my misery - what is it?

    I am sure it is delicious - I am assuming it is something gherkin like?

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  21. Oh girl, thank you so much for this recipe. I have been wondering for years (YEARS!) what the heck a pimento cheese sandwich was!!! I've read all the books in Jan Karon's Mitford series & as the books are set in the Souff (as my old pastor liked to say) they are mentioned frequently. I like pimentos...I like cheese...but what the heck is a pimento-cheese?
    You, my dear FriedOkra have enlightned me. Dunno if I'll like em...dunno if my family'll like em...but but I shall endevor to make em once spring has sprung here in E WA.
    God bless your SouthernFry'ness, again I am inspired to send a big O MY GRANNY(!) atcha.
    :)

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  22. Oooh, the recipe looks yummy! Pimento cheese is a rarity in Northern Virginia, and this Arkansas girl would much rather make her own.

    Although I do wonder where my local store keeps the pimentos. Probably in the gourmet section, just like the okra.

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  23. Ummm, the only pimento cheese I have ever tried was the kind in a tub from the grocery store smeared on stale crackers. It was not a pleasant experience.

    This looks pretty good though. You may have restored my faith in the south.

    Perhaps I will add these ingredients to my grocery list today...perhaps.

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  24. Ohmystars but you have made me homesick! I'm gonna have to go buy me some pimentos and make this tomorrow. We're havin' perfect pickanic weather!

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  25. I'm gonna tell you this, but you must promise to still be my friend, okay?

    I've never had homemade pimento cheese. I didn't know you could make it at home. I thought it only came in the containers at the deli.

    I'm sorry. Forgive.

    I WILL be trying this out myself, yes I will. Thank you.

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  26. What a hilarious post!

    You and I must be on the same wavelength, 'cause I whipped up my first batch of homemade pimento cheese this week, too.

    Must restock waxed paper. That looks lovely.

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  27. Friedokra:

    Here is my P&C recipe I have been using for over 60 years. The amount of each ingrediate is according to the number of people you a fix'n for. The secret to the greatness is: Pour the juice of the pimentos in the cheese first! Bryant from Moonville, SC



    Bryant’s World Famous Pimento Cheese

    I know there are hundreds of recipes for Pimento Cheese sandwiches, but only one that meets the Southern Taste Test like “Bryant’s World Famous Pimento Cheese”! I have given this recipe to many many people and some do it exactly like I tell them (they say) and it does not taste the same (they say). After a few select questions they admit they bought the “diced” kind of pimentos because it was too much trouble to chop the whole ones up! Some even tell me they used “salad dressing” instead of Hellman’s Mayonnaise ---- burrrrrrrr! Anyway, here it is one more time ---- good luck! Enjoy.

    First: Buy canned or jarred Whole Pimentos. They are easy to chop the consistency you like with a Pastry Cutter. If you feel lucky, lay them in your hand and cut them with a table knife like I do. Reserve juice for later.

    Second: Buy Sharp Cheddar Cheese in a block (not the shredded kind in a bag). Grate it on the big side of a Box Grater or Kitchen Aide Mixer with grater attachment.

    Third: Mix the chopped pimentos and cheese and pour all the reserved juice and stir until well mixed. You can add salt, but taste first.

    Fourth: Add your Hellman’s Mayo a little at a time because if you add too much it will be soupy. You can always add, but it takes a brain surgeon to remove.

    Five: I always put more mayo on the bread when making the sandwiches. If you want to be real fancy, stack them up and cut the crust off with an electric knife.

    The reason I did not give you any exact measurements is I don’t know them --- Nada! It depends on how much you need to prepare for number of people you will be serving. Just use common sense and it will be just fine. Enjoy

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Thoughts?