Photographed by Nick Surette, Styled by Madison Trapkin
The first recipe for pimento cheese was published in Good Housekeeping in 1908. For much of the 20th century, the popular cheese-and-sweet-pepper sandwich spread was a convenience food across the US, but it really caught on in the South so much so that the region has incorrectly been assumed to be its ancestral homeland. (In reality, pimento cheese likely originated in multiple places in the US simultaneously.)
Pimento cheese consumption used to follow strict guidelines. It was served exclusively in the following ways: spread on sliced bread, most often white, as a simple workingman’s lunch; spooned into a cucumber cup, cherry tomato, or curve of a celery stick for a fancy ladies’ luncheon or church tea; topping a Saltine or Ritz cracker for afterschool “Pimento Cheese Salad” snacking.
Affectionately known as “P-cheese,” this stuff was never slathered on a burger bun, mixed into grits, topped with bacon marmalade and served in mini Mason jars, or married with tortilla chips and heritage barbecue pork for “Southern Nachos.” Purists would never sully their beloved P-cheese in such a way! Pimento cheese was a humble cheese spread long before chefs elevated it into a fine-dining hors d’oeuvre. The following classic P-cheese recipes are a nod to those unpretentious beginnings, firmly rooted in mid-20th century Southern classics.
- 1 pound freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 4 cups)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ½ sweet onion, grated
- One 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and finely chopped
- Dash of hot sauce, or to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ►Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, and onions in a bowl. Stir until well combined. Add pimentos and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. The prepared pimento cheese can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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