Sally's Pimiento Cheese
My grandmother’s pimiento cheese is the best in the world. Whether it’s spread on a salty cracker or between two slices of grilled, buttered bread, there’s no wrong way to enjoy it. Being an aficionado and a self-proclaimed pimiento cheese expert, I’ve had my fair share of the “Caviar of the South,” as it’s often called.
Some might wonder, “What could possibly be more unhealthy than cheese and mayonnaise?” when the question they should be asking is: “How can I incorporate this into every single meal?”
I’ve watched my grandmother Sally make pimiento cheese many times. Like most grandmothers, she was always a bit vague with the exact measurements: “Add enough vinegar,” or “just a bit of pepper.” I was determined to get to the bottom of her recipe. Upon my endless research (read: dozens of grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches), I discovered that it’s honestly best to do the old “taste as you go” method.
One afternoon, after 27 years of enjoying my grandmother’s standard recipe, I was brave enough to alter it. This was a huge gamble – if it didn’t work, I would have wasted an entire perfectly good batch! I’ve acquired quite the tolerance for heat, so I thought I would throw in a few Mount Olive jalapeño slices. They’re not too spicy, and add a perfect level of salt and acid. I diced up a few and threw them in. I tasted. I smiled.
I sample pimiento cheese whenever it’s presented to me, and unless it’s Sally’s, nine times out of 10 I’m disappointed. There’s something about her recipe that is truly special. Maybe it’s the Southern tradition, maybe it’s just what I grew up on, or perhaps it’s simply the savory, cheesy goodness. Try her recipe. Any vessel to enjoy it will work – even if it’s just a spoon.
A few tricks I’ve learned: Leave the block of cheese out to come to room temperature so it’s easier to grate. Also, it’s all about the “mash.” Use the back of a fork to mash the cheese and mayo together until they’re nicely incorporated and friendly.
· 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (Sally always uses the Cracker Barrel brand)
· 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (start with this amount, you can always add more later)
· 2 oz. diced pimientos (don’t drain)
· 1 teaspoon black pepper
· 1 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider, white wine or champagne vinegars work best)
· 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño slices (I always use the Mount Olive brand)
Combine cheese and mayonnaise with a fork. Add the diced pimientos, pepper and vinegar. Add the chopped jalapeño slices. Taste and add additional pepper, vinegar or jalapeños if you like. Enjoy. Store leftovers in your fridge.
Yield: about 2 cups
Amanda Clark is an arts administrator by day and a blogger by night. She lives in Greensboro, NC, and blogs about restaurants and movies. Read more of her work at www.cuisineandscreen.com.