Family recipes are sacred in the South- Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese is one recipe I had held in the family vault for over 30 years until a friend asked for the recipe- actually he begged. He wanted to put it in a Pimento Cheese Contest, and I was not surprised one bit when it won First Place! It turns out there were some serious food critics there. I discovered later that the Cookbook Editor for a James Beard Award Winning Chef tasted Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese; even she agreed it was indeed the winner! In case you are wondering…there are lots of Variations of Pimento Cheese. Yankees have been trying to duplicate Southern Pimento Cheese for years; without much success I might add- they get too creative. Southerners often add an Ick ingredient to Pimento Cheese-they mash in Cream Cheese! Avoid those recipes like the Plague! As you know, I am an Amateur Food Critic myself- perhaps because my grandmother was the most serious Food Critic I have ever known! Mimi’s food backed up her expertise. I’m feeling in a generous holiday mood, so even though Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese is a year round favorite- it is especially welcome this time of year! Now, before I share it- you must understand it is a Method as much as it is a recipe!
Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese
- 12oz Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese- finely grated, don’t you dare buy packaged pre–shredded cheese!
- 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
- 1 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 small jar of Pimentos- not diced and not drained!
- 3/4- 1 cup of good Mayonnaise – I say this all of the time, it is too bad you don’t make it yourself– however, you must look for lemon juice as an ingredient in store bought mayonnaise, and don’t dare try to cut calories by getting light or reduced fat mayonnaise Hellman’s® has lemon juice and so does Winn Dixie’s® store brand, if you can’t find either, buy the regular kind and add lemon juice to it!
- 1-2 teaspoons Pepper Sauce – for those of you who don’t know what this is- we use it to spice up turnip greens. It is an essential ingredient in a Southern Pantry- made from pickled hot peppers, the liquid is really what we want far more than the actual peppers! This is not Tabasco ® ! We use a lot of that- but not for Pimento Cheese
- I wish everyone had one of these little graters which finely shreds cheese in the most perfect form. You can use the fine side of a box grater- *please don’t do this in a food processor! Finely grate the Sharp Cheddar- *grate it cold, let it come to room temperature for the best results. That pre-shredded mess is coated with corn starch or something and it will not absorb the other ingredients! Put the finely grated Cheese in a medium size mixing bowl, allowing a short time to soften.
- Start with adding 3/4 jar of the Pimentos and most of the juice to the grated Cheese .
- On top of Cheese put the good Mayonnaise, start with 3/4 cup- you may need to add the rest later.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of the Hot Pepper Sauce on top of Mayonnaise. You aren’t stirring yet are you?
- Add Spices- Cayenne Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes on top of the Mayonnaise.
- Now you can lightly incorporate the Mayonnaise, Pimentos, Pepper Sauce and Spices into the cheese. The mixture will seem stiff at first- keep lightly mixing until all is absorbed.
- At this point, you will know if you need more Mayonnaise or Pimentos with a bit more of the juice. *Hint- for a sandwich spread or Tea Sandwiches you will want Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese to be thinned out more, but to spread on crackers- a stiffer mixture is better. This is by feel, so you will need to either grate more cheese, if too thin- or add more Mayonnaise if too thick.
- Do not be overly concerned as you are mixing, right at first. Just know that your hard work of grating that Cheese will pay off! It will begin to absorb the Mayonnaise, Pimentos, Spices and become thicker. When the Pimento Cheese is chilled it will become a stiffer mixture. Wait until it has chilled and set to decide whether to add more mayonnaise or more cheese.
- Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.For a party it will hold well at room temperature. *Warning! This is a spicy Pimento Cheese! Mimi was a spicy lady! But I’m warning you, if you mess with Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese you’ll be sorry! Enjoy.
This is a staple in the kitchen of Camellia’s Cottage, I hope you also will be convinced it’s truly Award worthy. *Do not send the container to a friend’s house before their party- you may find Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese has disappeared before party time! Remember to finely grate the cheese yourself and keep that Cream Cheese for something else, darlin’
Love y’all, Camellia
Obviously all photographs are mine!