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That Versatile Southern Favorite
February 13, 2012 • Posted by Jean at Delightful Repast

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!

Pimento Cheese
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.

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