Friday, May 17, 2013

A Southern Staple

There's a staple in most Southern refrigerators that was never in mine growing up with my Mom's Germanic kitchen.  I enjoyed it nevertheless at friends's houses during my childhood. And what is this Southern staple?  PIMENTO CHEESE .

Its origin had it served as a crustless tea party finger food sandwich revered as much as those cucumber and dill tiny tea sandwiches.  The delicacy status stemmed from its two main ingredients's expense of cheese and pimiento peppers, at one time imported from Spain. When James Lewis Kraft sold the first processed cheese in 1915, it reached the masses. Southern farmers then began growing pimiento peppers which lowered its cost and this cheesy orangy spread's fate was sealed.  Although it never lost its elite status at weddings nor tearooms where 'Pimento Cheese' sandwiches can still be found.

Its history also included it being a 'work' food where these sandwiches were sold on factory lunch food carts and eventually in vending machines. Women were the ones who were instrumental for these businesses as an outlet to being stay at home Moms/ textile workers themselves. Who knew?

Well, I just lucked out this Southern visit arriving to my brother's house as my sister-in-law had been the recipient of a quart of a local caterer's Pimento cheese that would have been devoured if I had waited one more day.  Fortunately I had 2 lunches of Pimento Cheese sandwiches on white bread of course. I will be forever grateful that they let me polish it off.

If you'd like to try making Pimento Cheese, here is a great recipe :


1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated Monterey Jack
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos, smashed
1 teaspoon grated onion
Cracked black pepper


Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. It can be used as a dip for crudite or as a sandwich filling.

House Seasoning:

1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

It took many years for Pimento Cheese to be stocked in Northern refrigerated grocery sections. Now although it's available, sandwich white bread ( Wonder Bread) has never made it into the kitchen of End of the Rainbow Valley. To tell you the truth Pimento Cheese spread is just not the same on homemade multigrain bread. You just can't mess with childhood memories...

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