At the outset of last week, I realized if we were going to eat dinner, I was going to have to do some planning (and cooking) ahead. I wanted several options for meals we could just grab and go, making life a little bit easier. One of those options was pimento cheese.
The first time I had pimento cheese was in college. Mrs. Cape had sent down a tub to the Auburn gang through her daughter Lucia. It was a revelation. I made the mistake of buying some at the grocery store after that whereupon I learned the grocery store version is a sad, sad representative of this Southern culinary staple. The next chance I got to ask for the recipe, I did. There are a few tricks to it – mostly visual, that took me some time to master, so I took the time when I made it last week to capture what you need to know in order to make some truly awesome pimento cheese.
First, you shred a hunk of cheese. I prefer extra sharp cheddar, although my friend Mark highly recommends a nice smoked gouda. I have found pepper jack to be an excellent variation as well. Place it in a bowl and cover, letting it sit out overnight to soften (“Don’t try to speed things up in the microwave” – Mrs. Cape). It will look like this when it’s ready:
You might add a bit of salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce or Tabasco, depending on your taste buds. I like to pack it in small containers so that it’s ready to toss in a pool bag on a moment’s notice, to be served with ritz crackers.
Once you’ve had homemade pimento cheese, you’re not likely to go back to the store bought stuff. It’s quite easy to make, the hardest part is just letting the cheese sit out long enough to soften and then beating it long enough, although the beating takes maybe 5 minutes in a stand mixer. The mixture will harden somewhat in the fridge, so I recommend pulling it out to soften before serving. In addition to poolside snacking, it’s also lovely stuffed into celery sticks or served in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Mrs. Cape’s Pimento Cheese
1 lb cheese, shredded
3/4 cup mayo
4 oz jar pimentos
Finely grate cheese and let sit out over night to soften. Put softened, shredded cheese in a stand mixer and whip until light and creamy. Add mayo and pimentos. Whip the daylights out of it.
Tabasco is optional.