Pimiento cheese is the stuff of the devil.
My Mammaw loved this orange goo at least as much as she loved triple-decker mayonnaise sandwiches, probably because the kind she bought was pretty much a tub o’ mayo (or, more likely, a mayo-like “salad dressing”) with a bit of pasteurized processed cheese food thrown in to give it that bland, vaguely cheese-like color.
For example, the ingredient list for Knott’s Old Fashioned Pimiento Cheese Spread is an entire paragraph long and includes all sorts of things that you won’t find in most people’s kitchens: sodium phosphate, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, and even the ever-controversial high fructose corn syrup (which boggles my mind because why, oh why, would you need to sweeten pimiento cheese, anyway?). Yep, Knott’s might claim on the packaging that this old-fashioned cheese product was established in 1947 (when Mammaw was 12), but I’m pretty sure no one’s grandma has ever made her pimiento cheese based on their recipe.
(The jalapeno version was even recalled a few years back due to metal fragments being found in the product. Also not a common ingredient in most home kitchens.)
Anyway, my dislike of pimiento cheese when I was a kid had much more to do with its mayonnaise-to-cheese ratio than any of this, and after trying it once when I was a wee lass, I was sure I’d never want to eat it again. I successfully avoided it throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, even when it was homemade, because it just grossed me out.
Fast-forward to a few years ago, when a late-afternoon visit to Five and Ten changed my life forever.
Micah and I had strolled down to this wonderful restaurant one afternoon for an early dinner, but I wasn’t super-hungry, so I perused the snackies section of the menu for something small that I could enjoy with a cup of soup. Feeling a bit reckless, I decided to order the pimiento cheese. I knew I hated the stuff. I knew it might make me gag. But I figured that if anyone could make me like it, it might be Hugh Acheson. And Micah (who doesn’t share my mayo aversion) promised he would eat it for me if I couldn’t.
Well, Hugh did not succeed in making me like pimiento cheese that day.
He made me love it.
He made me love it so much that I immediately decided I must make my own batch so I could eat pimiento cheese all the freaking time.
The only problem was, I didn’t have his recipe, and I had no idea how he had made it so damn delicious. So, I did what I always do when I don’t know what I’m doing. I winged it. And the results were fantastic.
I’ve been making my own pimiento cheese for three or four years now, tweaking the recipe here and there to suit my own tastes. Since I
don’t like hate loathe mayonnaise, and since Micah can’t usually consume a whole jar of the stuff before the expiration date, it’s not something we keep around the house. So one big change in my recipe is using Greek yogurt in place of the mayo. This might sound strange, but I promise–you won’t miss that fatty egg-goo at all, and the yogurt gives you the added bonus of less fat and more protein (not, of course, that anyone eats pimiento cheese for its health value).
Here’s the batch I made this week:
Even if you don’t like pimiento cheese–especially if you don’t like pimiento cheese!–you should try this recipe. (Or Hugh’s.) It just might change your life.
What’s in it:
- 1 pound of sharp cheddar (the sharper, the better)
- half of a 12-ounce jar of pimientos or roasted red peppers (or just roast your own)
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked, if you have it, but regular is yummy, too)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (or chipotle, if you want it smokier, which I like)
- salt and pepper to taste
- a little apple cider vinegar if you like yours tangy (which we do)
- Cut the cheddar into cubes and toss it in the food processor.
- Add the pimientos, yogurt, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, and cayenne/chipotle.
- Process until you’ve got the texture you like. (We like ours creamy and spreadable, but if you like yours chunkier, just process a little less.)
- Taste it! Add salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if needed.
This makes a pretty big batch, which we eat on toast, crackers, cold sandwiches, or–my favorite–grilled cheese sandwiches. (Heaven!) It’s tangy, salty, smoky, and spicy, just how I like it. I can eat gobs of it in a sitting, and sometimes do.
Yep, pimiento cheese really is the stuff of the devil.