The other day at the co-op I came across these beautiful, locally grown pimento peppers. I didn’t have pimentos on the shopping list but they were too enticing to ignore. While I was driving home I thought about what I could make with them. And that is what led to my memory of the Kraft™ olive and pimento cheese on white bread sandwiches my mom used to make for me when I was a kid.
And then the memories started to flood into my mind; including the used up jars from the pimento cheese that were made to be saved and used as juice glasses, also known as Swanky Swigs. If memory serves, to the left is the style of Swanky Swig I saw in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Olive and pimento cheese stood out as an unusual choice given where my family lived what we usually ate. So how and why did my Mom, who grew up mostly in Douglas, Arizona, get a taste for a food that has its roots in the south? She was introduced to it by her mom, my Grandma ‘Nez. I’m sure my Grandma ‘Nez was introduced to it by her mom. I bet my great Grandma Hagan (born in Bell County, Texas) had her own special recipe for pimento cheese spread.
As is the case with most treasured regional recipes, there are probably as many versions of pimento cheese as there are cooks. These recipes can be broken down into two basic types.
- A creamy spread made with a combination of pimento, cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese, and sharp cheddar
- A chunkier version made with pimento, sharp cheddar, another cheese such as pepper jack or monterey jack, and mayonnaise
The cook chooses one of these two basic recipes and then adds his or her own signature ingredients such as olives, garlic, serrano or jalapeno chile, onion, mayonnaise, various pickled peppers, worcestershire sauce, pickles, vinegar, hot sauce…the list goes on.
I made both versions. Click on the links above to go to the recipe. My favorite is the creamy spread. The chunky one is good too, but not the consistency I was looking for.
Pimento cheese is a classic summertime southern food. Serve on celery, crackers or make your own heirloom tomato and pimento cream cheese sandwich. It tastes even better than I remember.