Pimento Cheese Spread is synonymous with the Southern US. It’s everywhere and can be easily purchased in the deli section of most supermarkets. Now purists would have us believe, and they’re probably right, that the supermarket stuff is well, YUK! But, in a pinch, and when you don’t know what the “real thing” should taste like, it’s not too bad!As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been combing through my mother’s recipe files and I’ve run across some interesting stuff. She had some recipes, and in fact she made some of the recipes, that have a decidedly Southern slant to them. This recipe, “Emma’s Cheese and Pepper Sandwich Filling”, was one such recipe. One of her brothers, married a woman from Texas, a much older woman…Horrors!!! Keep in mind, this was back in the day, when people thought such things odd, but anyway, my mother, being my mother, didn’t really care about such things. And besides, Emma was a good cook…except for the peanut and mayonnaise sandwich filling…that was a bridge too far, even for Mother. But, I digress. This was Aunt Emma’s recipe. And as I read it, I remembered having this in my childhood; it was summer fare for us. And as I read the recipe, I also realized this was in fact, Pimento Cheese Spread!
This is easy-peasy to make and a really nice thing to have around the holidays…or anytime, really. We used to have it in the summer, for supper (that’s what farm families called the evening meal, when I was a wee one!), either cold or as a “grilled cheese” sandwich. You just dump the mayo and the spices into the bowl, give it a good stir and then add everything else. Another good stir, into a bowl (with a tight-fitting lid) and into the fridge. It is by far best to let it rest, mingle and do whatever unspeakable things those ingredients might do when the light goes out, overnight. But, at least 6 hours is an absolute must. Now, my mother made some suggestive changes (like mother, like daughter, I guess) to the original recipe. She used slightly less mayonnaise, but I found the original amount was closer to what real-deal Pimento Cheese Spread is like. She used regular paprika “for color”, but I switched it to smoked and that change is a keeper, for me. She added the dry mustard, and I think that’s a good addition, as well. She used “finely minced regular onion”, because that’s what should would have had readily available…I think onion/scallion is a matter of choice, and has less to do with flavor, but is definitely more colorful. She made a note to NOT “chop the pimentos too small”. Again, personal preference. She noted adding chopped pimento-stuffed olives and chopped pecans “for ladies sandwiches”. I suspect that was because my father wasn’t all that keen on olives, but the nuts are all good. I didn’t include either of those things this time, but remember I loved the pecans…and definitely, toasted!
So there it is…I was going to call this “Northern Pimento Cheese Spread”, but let’s give Aunt Emma credit, as credit is due! I think she would be pleased.
Aunt Emma's Pimento Cheese Spread
- 1/3-1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s™ Light)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or other pure chile powder (ancho or chipotle)
- 8 ounces cold extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded (see NOTE)
- 1/2 cup diced roasted peppers or pimentos, very well drained
- 1/3 cup chopped scallions, include some of the green (2-3 scallions)
- 1/2 kosher salt (optional—taste the mixture first—I didn’t use it)
- Chopped pimento-stuffed or black olives
- Chopped toasted pecans
Get out a good-sized bowl. Put the mayo, Worcestershire, pepper, paprika, mustard, garlic granules and cayenne in the bottom and give it a good stir. Add the remaining ingredients. Using a spatula, give it all a good stir, just until it comes together. Don’t mash it up too much. You want it to be chunky. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours, but overnight is best. Will keep in the fridge for at least a week to 10 days. Makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, and works well as a stuffing for jalapeño peppers!
NOTE: Some “sharp” cheese is sharper than others, and the salt levels very hugely. I find Cabot® Cheeses are always a good choice, but you should definitely taste for salt, before adding an additional salt. I sometimes use “extra sharp” and “sharp” in equal parts, but that’s up to you. Also, cheese shreds much more easily when cold, and it will hold its shape better, as well. I use the medium holes on the grater. If you live in the South, I suspect Duke’s™ would be your mayo of choice. I didn’t give amounts for the olives or pecans, because those too, are a matter of preference.
Aunt Emma’s Pimento Cheese Spread Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2018. All rights reserved.