Pimento Cheese (pimento is spelled without the second “i” and pronounced without the “t” in the South!) is an iconic Southern food that's been around for over a hundred years. There are many variations, but it's basically shredded sharp or medium Cheddar, mayonnaise and pimientos. It is delicious on a hamburger, hot dog or bacon sandwich; but it's usually just slapped on some soft white bread for a quick sandwich, cold or toasted. You can also stuff celery with it, spread it on crackers or dip tortilla chips in it. See what I mean by “versatile”?
It must, or so I'm told, be made with real mayonnaise. Purists may not add anything to the basic ingredients, but I like to stir in a little dill pickle and dill pickle juice along with black pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Other variations include chopped green olives, red wine vinegar, Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce. Some like it blended smooth, but I'm among those who prefer it a bit chunky.
This afternoon—in a tribute to both my Southern grandmother and my English grandmother—I spread a thin layer of pimento cheese on a slice of good-quality thin white bread, topped it with another slice, trimmed off the crusts and cut it into tiny tea sandwiches to go with a pot of Earl Grey tea. You might be tempted to just eat it by the spoonful!
Makes 3 cups
1 pound medium or sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and diced
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In 2-quart bowl, stir together all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to serving bowl and cover. Chill for a few hours or up to one week. Serve with crackers, tortillas chips, bread or celery sticks.