Everyone agrees that there are three core ingredients for pimiento cheese: sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimientos.
Actually, some people prefer roasted red peppers to pimientos. I like roasted red peppers a lot, and often roast my own, but the wisdom of our ancestors is in using small jars of pimientos, and I’d feel like I was trying to get above my raising if I used anything else. At least everyone agrees on the sharp cheese and mayonnaise. I think. There is heated debate about the mayonnaise. Lots of people swear by Duke’s, and I understand why: their mothers used Duke’s when they were growing up, and they think it tastes best. My mother used Hellman’s when we were growing up. I use Hellman’s because it tastes best. Your mother may have used some other kind of mayonnaise, and I know that she was worthy of your love, but perhaps, just perhaps, it is time to put aside childish things and try Duke’s or Hellman’s.
Diced jalapeños are a nice addition, but any other kind of pepper is simply a distraction. Some people add pecans or walnuts. It’s a free country, after all. And some people add cream cheese to make it …creamier; but, really now, how creamy does it need to be? Debby Tanner substitutes spring onions for the pimientos, and the result is sublime. Everyone loves it, especially me. But I digress. It doesn’t have pimientos, so it’s something other than pimiento cheese and I should get back to the point. We can revisit Debby’s onion cheese later, after I manage to duplicate her recipe. That could take a while.
Here is my version:
Grate 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese. Place it in a bowl. Add 1 1/2 well-drained jars of Dromedary diced pimientos. Add a big spoonful of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Splash a few drops of Lea and Perrins and a few shakes of Tabasco sauce onto the mayonnaise — the mayonnaise, not the cheese or pimiento. Stir up the mayonnaise a little with a fork. Then stir the whole thing, adding more mayonnaise to get the consistency you prefer, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Then look at the remaining half jar of pimientos and start wondering what on earth you’re going to do with a half jar of pimientos. Add it to the mixture, and add some more cheese. Stir until everything is thoroughly mixed.
UPDATE: An important note as to texture. Do not overload the pimiento cheese with mayonnaise so that it becomes too creamy, like the supermarket versions. This is a spread, a malleable solid you add to the base cracker or bread with a knife. It is not a creamy dip. The pieces of cheese should remain distinct within the mixture. Now back to the original post:
It is traditional to eat pimiento cheese with saltines, and I usually do that or make a sandwich. It also is traditional for some of us to eat saltines with canned sardines or Vienna Sausage (not mixed: on separate saltines, of course) during a lunch break at work while you’re sitting on a box or a log or a trailer. I am no slave to tradition, and prosperity has taken me away from boxes, logs and trailers, and from canned sardines and Vienna Sausage, for the most part, but saltines remain a great platform for pimiento cheese. I found during my college days that pimiento cheese is fantastic with plain Doritos. These days, I can never find plain Doritos. They all come covered with gunk. And I have to admit that my days of making a meal out of a bag of Doritos, pimiento cheese, and hot salsa (again, the salsa on a separate chip) should remain a thing of the distant past. Of course, pimiento cheese is perfect for finger sandwiches, and I dearly love it in a sandwich on white bread with dill chips and iceberg lettuce. That was my favorite lunch in elementary school, other than Dear’s cold fried chicken.
For more recipes, click on “Recipes” under Categories, or Search “Recipe.”