May is a month of many celebrations – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and who could forget – Pimento month, which gives a nod to the little red pepper most often associated with green olives and martinis.
In the South, pimentos are the star of Southern paté a.k.a. pimento cheese.
I haven’t eaten pimento cheese in decades. I remember as a kid eating it in those little glass jars that we later reused for juice. Years later I would go visit my parents and there they were. I would say, “Mom, do you have any 10 ounce glasses or 16 ounce glasses for water? She always kept her really nice stuff for company.
Speaking of which, I just remembered that my mom died five years ago on the day before Mother’s Day. Hi Mom. I miss you but you left me with a wealth of stories and recipes and memories.
So getting back to pimento cheese, where did the craze start? You have to admit that pimento cheese is odd but not as odd as Cheese Whiz or Velveta.
Duke’s Mayonnaise offers the following insight:
Pimento Cheese has been part of the Southern diet since the beginning of the 20th century. This classic first appeared in grocery stores in 1915. Due to its simplicity, the recipe grew in popularity during the depression and has been making mouths melt ever since.
Pimento Cheese is made by combining grated cheese, mayonnaise, chopped pimentos, and spices. Different generations have customized this dish according to the times. Varieties include everything from onions, garlic, and cream cheese to cracked pepper turkey breast.
While many argue that their grandmother’s recipe is the best, one thing that remains constant is the use of Duke’s Mayonnaise. Duke’s unique flavor and traditional recipe (the only mayonnaise that is sugar-free) is the secret of Southern cooks and adds just the right touch to any pimento cheese recipe.
I’ll stop here as you might be thinking that pimento cheese is not healthy. Heck, I’m thinking that too.
However, a little dab of something wonderful is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, denying yourself will make you want to eat more. I noticed that Duke’s has a fat free mayo and also a light mayo. I usually opt for the light version vs. the fat free because it tastes more natural.
Here are a few recipes from Duke’s Mayo for pimento cheese. Unless it squirts out of some aersol bottle, I don’t think your kids will want to try it. Feel free to subsitute the light mayo in these recipes below.
Baked Pimento Cheese
1 ¼ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
4 oz. jar of pimento or roasted red pepper (drained)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. ground red pepper
8 oz. block of sharp cheddar (shredded)
8 oz. block of extra sharp cheddar (shredded)
Stir together first five ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in cheeses. Spoon mixture into a light greased 2-qt or 11×17 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve dip with crackers or crunchy veggies. Makes 4 cups
Pimento Cheese Casserole – This would be good to take to a retro potluck.
8 oz. box of macaroni
1 small jar of chopped pimentos
1 can cream of mushroom soup
12 oz. grated sharp cheddar
¾ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
1 small onion (finely chopped)
Cook macaroni according to directions on box. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Combine all other ingredients and add to macaroni. Pour into buttered 13×9 casserole dish and bake for 35 minutes.
(20 crushed Ritz crackers mixed with ½ stick of melted butter may be added to the top of the casserole before baking)
I think you can reduce the cheese to 1/4 stick and use light mayo.
Southern Pimento Cheese
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar
½ of Duke’s Mayonnaise
¼ cup of onions (finely chopped)
2 oz. jar of mixed pimentos (drained)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Add pimentos to cheese and mix. Add sugar and mayonnaise to mixture. Last, add the onions and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk at high speed in a bowl with a mixer. Scrape sides of bowl to ensure well-blended texture. Chill 2 hours and enjoy on toasted bread or crackers.
Happy pimento cheese month.