- Homemade Pimento Cheese
When I was younger you couldn’t pay me to eat store-bought pimento cheese. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to eat any pimento cheese because I didn’t know there was any kind other than store-bought. Now, well past my youth, you still can’t pay me to eat store-bought pimento cheese. But at least I know there’s a mouthwatering alternative: homemade pimento cheese. Let me backtrack a few – no, more than a few – years…
One of the best things to happen to me during my college years was renting a room in Kitty Irwin’s house on Downey Street. Kitty was a beautiful, kind, gentle, wonderfully creative woman who rented rooms to poor college students in her lovely old, brick Victorian, located just a couple of blocks from campus. I was enamored with my room’s yellow fabric walls!
But more than shelter, Kitty’s house offered a ragtag family of sorts and a grounding influence that I sorely needed. She was a talented graphic designer who surely influenced my future by providing my first freelance cut and paste jobs (with an x-acto knife and wax). Eventually I choose the copy path, but I’m still grateful for her inspiration.
Kitty also greatly influenced my love of cooking. My father and my Granna had already given me a solid foundation, but now “on my own,” I found a creative outlet in cooking at Kitty’s house, as well as an appreciation for advance meal planning. Every quarter (a college session prior to semesters) we would put in $50 apiece for groceries, to which Kitty and her guy Bill would add their part. Then each of us would claim one weeknight + one food “theme” and plan menus to last the entire quarter. For example, spring quarter I might have chicken on Wednesday nights. So I would then plan and cook meals with chicken main dishes and sides for the house each Wednesday night that quarter. My roommates would be responsible for the other weeknights: Hamburger Night, Egg/Cheese Night, or whatever else we came up with. (We were on our own for the weekends.) Then we would make up our grocery list and go shopping, an adventure in itself.
This was a great challenge, a great lesson, and great fun for a house full of college students, and I will always be grateful to Kitty for all she taught me. I learned to make scrumptious egg salad, a colorful green salad with violets (yes, they’re edible), and homemade spaghetti sauce. I even remember waking up one icy February morning and shuffling into the kitchen to find a fantastic table of brunch goodies – Kitty’s gift to us on Valentine’s Day.
I also learned to make homemade pimento cheese and I’ve been making it for the past 30 years. It’s a favorite among my coworkers, and even my Larry, who initially said, “Ew, no….I don’t eat pimento cheese,” gives it a thumbs up.
The good news is that it’s very easy to make. The bad news is that I don’t have exact measurements. You’ll just have to feel your way through.
Start with a large block of either medium or sharp cheddar. For a crowd I use a 1.5 lb. block and shred it in small batches in my food processor, also college era. (Note: Always shred cheese your own self, rather than buying the pre-shredded stuff. You’ll be much happier with the flavor of every recipe…I promise.) Next, blend in a good amount of drained, diced pimentos, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use Duke’s), and 1-2 tablespoons of cream cheese. Process until the pimento cheese is at your desired level of smoothness.
I realize this is a really non-specific recipe, but you’ll figure it out to your taste. Trust me on this. And as yummy as homemade pimento cheese is on whole grain crackers, it’s even more delish on pumpernickel bread and toasted bagels. So get shredding and enjoy! And thank you Kitty….my life is so much richer because you were in it.