Tartine Bread’s country loaf lately. So far, my most successful attempt was the first attempt. Go figure.
In honor of my inaugural loaf and to mark the occasion, I decided to attempt another first for me.
I made pimento cheese.
Here’s where I admit something that no self-respecting Southerner ever should: I, heretofore, have always bought pimento cheese at the grocery store.
In my defense, it’s not like I’ve been buying those pre-packaged plastic bins of suspicious orange looking goop. In fact, I am fairly selective in my pimento cheese buying habits. I only buy the made in house pimento cheese found in the deli section of better grocery stores. I like to think someone’s grandma (or aunt or mama) is back there in the store’s kitchen whipping up the batch just for me.
So though I stand firm that store bought pimento cheese can be just as good, I realized it was high time I made a batch of homemade pimento cheese to test my conviction.
I have to say, the homemade pimento cheese I made was so good I almost changed my mind.
Almost... but not quite.
adapted from Bellwether Vance’s recipe
The best ode to pimento cheese I’ve ever read, Bellwether Vance’s Pimento Cheese is Happy Food, is a direct repudiation of my stance. (The fact that it is the only ode to pimento cheese I have ever read should in no way diminish its greatness.) Since it pains me to disagree with as persuasive and entertaining a storyteller as Bellwether, I decided to split the difference. I made a homemade batch of pimento cheese by adapting Bellwether’s recipe to re-create the flavor of my favorite store bought pimento cheese. I think I got pretty close. My original plan was to get all fancy and make a good, garlicky homemade aioli to use in lieu of mayo. I figured this way I’d kill two birds with one stone- I’d have a way to incorporate fresh garlic and avoid the inevitable back and forth about who makes the best mayonnaise. The brand of mayo used in pimento cheese can be a major point of contention. (Can I just point out that the mayo is a vehicle for the other flavors, people, and not the main attraction?) After three failed attempts at making Judy Rodger’s aioli recipe, I gave up and went with Kraft. Many Southerners swear by Hellmans’ or Duke’s mayo but I grew up in a Kraft household and it works just fine.
4 oz medium sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz mozzarella cheese
3 T fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2 t garlic salt
1 4-ounce jar of pimentos (or pimientos, as they are also called), drained
3-4 T of your preferred mayonnaise or aioli
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Grate the cheeses and portion out the amounts needed. Add the cheese to a medium large mixing bowl.
2. For all other ingredients, use the amounts above as a guide but add to suit your taste. It’s best to start slow and add more, if needed, as you go. Add the pimentos to the cheese (in total, I added approximately ¾ of the jar). Add in the garlic salt, ground pepper, and some chopped dill (in all, I wound up adding approximately 2-3 tablespoons of dill). Lastly, add the mayo. Mix and taste, then adjust accordingly.
3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors gel but set out at room temp for a short time before serving. You don’t get the full bloom of flavor if pimento cheese is eaten chilled.