Martha Shannon, who worked for my great-grandparents, made the best according to my mother, my aunts, my cousin Manny Edmunds Salters.
Sharon Schwartz in Beaufort gave us the basis of what I think is the best as amalgamated by me right here.
Palmetto Cheese brand’s commercial variety works. It’s from Pawley’s Island, so it’s got that going for it.
Ruth’s store brand contains too much mayonnaise and too much corn syrup and imitation cheese. It’s actually cheese product they use. Not good. Not at all.
Of course, I’m talking about the most beloved of spreads, Pimento Cheese.
Capitalized for effect.
All versions of Pimento Cheese amalgamate from other versions.
Hate to reveal what’s been revealed by many, but this ubiquitous Southern staple came from Up Nawth back in the 19th Century.
To quote Kurtz, “The horror. The horror.”
Since at least the mid-20th Century, Pimento Cheese has been as Southern as sweet tea, buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken, rice n gravy, barbecue, shrimp and hominy, Hoppin’ John, tomato pie, chicken and dumplings, and, gulp, that abomination called banana pudding.
Robert Moss gives the full story right here:
I have taken various versions of the receipt and made the following my go-to for what Mr. Moss describes as the pâté of the South.
I would contend that pâté is the pâté of the South, but, that’s just me living in the Lowcountry where there’s always been a strong French influence.
Anyway, here’s my version of Pimento Cheese.
I try to keep it on hand in the fridge as it’s an easy appetizer to pull out whenever there’s a pop-in from a neighbor who’s had a long day, a family member who just came by to drop something off, or a friend who invites themselves over for a spell.
Pour them a drink and put out some pimento cheese.
No one ever turns this down.
Like NO ONE.
You’ll make their day.
I have served this to families, friends, and neighbors, and, to those who are alone.
I have taken this to the mountains, to the beach, to tailgates, to cocktail parties, to brunches, to suppers.
I have made obligatory tea sandwiches for events using this spread once it comes to room temperature.
Ever notice that we Southerners are death on bringing it to room temperature?
Usually that doesn’t take very long in our heat, even withe the a.c. cranking.
I have served this on Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Stoned Wheat crackers.
I have put this with celery sticks, much to everyone’s chagrin.
I have mixed this into grits and people think they have died off and gone straight to cheese grits heaven.
Make it your own.
There’s no right or wrong pimento cheese, except for Ruth’s store brand, supra. It’s kind of wrong. Kind of.
With all my thanks to the late Martha Shannon and to Beaufort’s own Sharon Schwartz.
1 7 oz. jar sliced pimientos – why we dropped that 2nd “i”, I’ll never know – drained and chopped fine
12-15 pimento stuffed green olives, drained and chopped fine
1 8 oz block cream cheese brought to room temperature – see – brought to room temp yet again
1 tbsp. yellow mustard – store brand is fine
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. garlic salt – yes – garlic salt – it rehydrates as it sits in the mixture and cuts back on the sodium content of which there is plenty with the other ingredients
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
1 tbsp. sherry (optional – but not really)
Dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste (optional – but not really)
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped fine (optional – but not really)
2 lbs extra sharp cheddar cheese grated by hand – you’ll need all 2 lbs and may be more
Mayonnaise – preferably Duke’s – but that is a debate for another day
In a mixing bowl place the softened, room temperature cream cheese. Add the chopped pimiento, olives, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, black pepper, sherry, Tabasco, and jalapeno pepper. With a fork, mix by hand until all the lumps of the cream cheese are gone and the mixture is smooth and kind of runny and messy. You’ll see what I mean the first time you make this.
By handfuls, add the cheddar cheese and mix by hand with the fork after each addition. It eventually becomes kind of a workout for your mixing arm.
After all the cheese is added, assess if you want more cheese if you think the mixture is too runny.
Then, add mayonnaise until it becomes a consistency you like. I usually add no more than two or three tbsps. of Mrs. Eugenia Dukes’ culinary excellence to the mix.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge; it kind of keeps indefinitely, which is awesome.
To serve, bring to, you got it, room temperature.
Serve with crackers, on hamburgers, with vegetables, on hot steaks out of a screaming hot cast iron skillet.
It makes a fine lunch served on lite bread.
There are a gajillion variations of this B T Dubs. A gajillion.
Make it your own. You won’t offend anyone by changing it up to suit your tastes.
Don’t over mayonnaise the cheese. You can always add. You can’t take away.
If you don’t like spicy food, don’t use the Tabasco and don’t use the jalapeno.
If you’re like my pal Adam Barr and despise sherry, don’t use sherry.
If you want to have watery eyes, grate a little onion until it turns to liquid and add that to the mix
In the name of all that is good in this world, and, most importantly, whatever you do, don’t eat Ruth’s. Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have no bidness being in pimento cheese. Neither does sodium benzoate, whatever that may be.