Pimento Peppers ~ And Pimento Cheese, an Iconic Southern Specialty!

Open just about any traditional Southern refrigerator and you will find a bowl of Pimento Cheese. Served in everyday sandwiches or as party food, it is an iconic staple of the South. A simple mixture of grated cheese, pimientos, and a dab of mayonnaise (preferably homemade), it is often spiffed up with a little of this or a little of that ~ garlic, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, olives, onion, cream cheese. Family recipes are closely guarded for generations.

Now y’all, I am Southern by birth and I am quite fond of grits, black-eyed peas, biscuits, catfish, hush puppies, cheese straws, and other dishes specific to my homeland but I have never taken a likin’ to Pimento Cheese. Don’t really know why. . . . Cheese? Love it. Roasted peppers? Love those too! Mayonnaise? Good stuff. BUT mixed together in a spread? “Yuck!” said the once upon a time little girl.

I remember Mama stuffing celery with Pimento Cheese for parties. I remember little jars of pimentos in the fridge. I remember containers of store bought Pimento Cheese. And I remember that no matter how many times or places I tasted the stuff, I did not like it. It was absolutely a dish to be avoided.

Pimento Cheese is trending these days ~ recently “discovered” or “re-discovered” by chefs, food magazines, and bloggers. It has crossed the Mason Dixon upward and is finding its way into all sorts of dishes across the land. Beyond the traditional stuffed celery, cracker spread, and tea sandwiches of yesterday, we are seeing it featured on burgers, in grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches, in mac and cheese, baked potatoes, deviled eggs, biscuits, grits, fried cheese balls ~ omgoodness gracious! 

Now ~ many decades past childhood ~ this Southerner decided to give the Pate of the South another taste. Why? Not because of its current popularity but because of a crop of peppers from OF’s Farm at The Sidewalk House. We have grown Sweet Cherry peppers for several seasons because they make good stuffed poppers for those who don’t want the heat of jalapenos. This past year Contrary Mary suggested we plant a Lipstick pepper plant. Sure, why not? ~ a bit of research would be necessary but you know I dig research.

Once I learned that both of these chiles ~ Sweet Cherry and Lipstick ~ are considered pimento type peppers, my curiosity was piqued. Aren’t the bottled pimentos in brine and the pimientos stuffed in green olives simply preserved red bell peppers? Apparently not. Pimentos have a sweeter flavor and aroma. Unlike thick skinned red bell peppers which require intense blistering to remove the skins, these thin skinned fruits are easy to blister and peel without being heavily blackened.

Roasted!

Peeled!

Chopped and ready to be mixed with sharp cheddar and mayonnaise!

Ready to taste? OMGoodness, Yes!

I declare this dish to be delicious! What took me so long? I don’t know. I suspect it was the canned pimento or the juices thereof. But who’s to say? I do know that almost all recipes call for bottled pimento peppers and that the flavoring of the juice is important. For me? I will continue to fiddle around with the proportions of cheese, mayonnaise and our homegrown lipstick and sweet cherry peppers to develop our own recipe for the Caviar of the South? the Pate of the South? to be held secret by the next generations of our Sidewalk House family. Precious Chloe has given it a thumbs up! We are on our way. I am confident our other tasters will have suggestions for improvement in the coming season.

How about you? Is Pimento Cheese a staple in your fridge? Do you purchase it or make your own? Do you grow and roast your peppers? Does your family have a deeply guarded secret recipe? Come on, spill it. Your comments are welcome here at The Sidewalk House. It’s the little things! Hugs, Y’all!

Oh, and by the way! This deeply Southern dish has its roots up north ~ way back. An interesting read on its history can be found here:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/09/sauced-pimento-cheese-recipe.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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