The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…
I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here. Enjoy you guys! December will be posted in the next couple of days! *smiles*
There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of homemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.
Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.
Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!
This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.
Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my own opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.
· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.
· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.
· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a nice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.
· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.
Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!