Pimiento Cheese

I’m seeing pimiento cheese more and more nowadays. I’m seeing it pop up in blogs, in magazines, in restaurant menus. Most recently, it was featured in Saveur’s Sandwich Issue. Pimiento cheese is a common food in the Southern United States.  And as other Southern fare is known for, pimiento cheese is comfort food.

I love pimiento cheese, but not because it’s Southern, not because Paula Deen likes it (it has mayo), not because it’s gaining mainstream popularity. I love pimiento cheese because it reminds me of my childhood in the Philippines…

I was around eleven years old when I had chickenpox. Since my two sisters both haven’t had it yet, I was “quarantined” to live in my grandparents’ house. Two of my aunts live there too, Auntie Nor and Auntie Tee (my dad has five sisters so I grew up with a lot of aunts). My dad’s sisters all have strong personalities, they are all nurturing, and they all always offered me and my insatiable appetite a seemingly endless supply of snacks. One of my favorites was pimiento cheese – or cheese pimiento, as it is referred to in the Philippines.

So while I was recovering from chickenpox in my grandparent’s house, I didn’t feel like I was sick. I felt like I was on vacation. Auntie Nor and Auntie Tee took care of me and spoiled me, they would take me shopping and buy me pizza and candy. And I loved the early mornings with my grandparents: my lolo (my dad’s dad) used to work in a sugar mill and he had an affinity for sugar, just like me and my dad; he would drink his coffee with sugar cubes. My lola (dad’s mom) would putter around the kitchen, heating up pan de sal (Filipino bread rolls) and putting out the jars of cheese pimiento that she knew I loved.

pimiento cheese = a taste of my childhood

When I made this pimiento cheese spread, I remembered my favorite afternoon snacks in the Philippines.  I enjoyed it with my aunts, with my grandparents, with my cousins, and even by myself (I would secretly dip into the jars, sshhhh). I am lucky to grow up in a big, loving family, and even luckier to have the ability to remember all those happy moments, even with a simple spread of cheese.

Pimiento Cheese

(original recipe from Saveur)

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup packed, jarred pimientos plus 1 tablespoon brine reserved from jar (I used Cento brand)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1/4 cup mayonaisse (I used Hellman’s Light)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a bowl

Step 2: Mix well. That’s it.

I’ve seen other recipes that require a food processor, or recipes that include vinegar, jalapenos, cream cheese, paprika, etc. But the ingredients above (and the “all you need is a bowl” method) are most reminiscent of my childhood snack in the Philippines, and thus what I prefer the most. If you follow this recipe though, be prepared for the mouth-watering heat from the habanero.

Pimiento cheese may be eaten with crackers or crudites (celery is a popular pairing), or in a sandwich with lettuce and tomato. It may even be mixed in with a mashed egg yolk for deviled eggs.

for lunch, I like it as a plain sandwich using whole wheat toast

so simple and so tasty

Have you had pimiento cheese before? What was your favorite childhood snack?

   

21 Responses to “Pimiento Cheese”

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    1
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted April 21, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I love your childhood stories from the Philippines! Pimiento cheese is not something I’ve tried but I would definitely like it with all those spices going on!

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    Julie @ Shining From Within posted April 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I’ve never tried pimiento cheese before but thise looks sooo good on crispy toast! Way better than the boring cheddar cheese sandwich :)

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    3
    Lindsey @Textbooks and Cookbooks posted April 21, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I LOVE pimiento cheese!! My favorite way to eat it growing up was on a sandwich cut into 4 squares haha. Sometimes I add worcestershire to my recipe and it’s really good! Now I’m going to have to make some this weekend :)

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    4
    Michelle Collins posted April 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Ohh, I love the idea of mixing this with deviled eggs!

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    christina posted April 21, 2011 at 10:11 am

    pimiento cheese is definitely an SC staple. it is everywhere. on everything! i loooooooooove it on burgers.

  6. #
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    Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday posted April 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I’ve seen pimiento cheese a lot lately too but have never tried it.

    I love when a food memory takes to back to a really happy time. That truly makes it a comfort food.

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    7
    Dana posted April 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I’ve never had pimiento cheese before, but I love the sound of the spicy, cheesy mixture! Sounds like the perfect comfort food!

  8. #
    8
    Megan posted April 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I have been seeing this everywhere too! I love that it reminds you of home and family.

  9. #
    9
    Michelle posted April 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Confession: I’ve never tried pimiento cheese but it looks really interesting!

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    MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College posted April 22, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I have NEVER tried pimiento cheese…I think I may just have to give it a try sometime.

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    11
    MelissaNibbles posted April 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Cheese sandwich? I’m in.

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    12
    Susan (Oliepants) posted April 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Okay! This post could not have come at a better time. I was recently at a mediation where they served lunch of a pimiento sandwiches. It was a strange choice and I thought I would hate it. I loved it! It had such a good taste and I’ve been looking to make my own.

    You totally won me over b/c of your use of the habanero!!!

    • Bianca Garcia replied April 25th, 2011 at 11:12 pm

      Hey Susan, the habanero is so abso-freaking-lutely perfect in this recipe. Enjoy!

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    13
    Andie @ CanYouStayForDinner posted April 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    And now I need pimento cheese in my life. This looks fabulous!!

  14. #
    14
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted April 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I love your stories. You really could write a beautiful cookbook with memories! I really enjoy pimiento cheese. I think I need to make some now!

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    15
    Joanne posted April 23, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I’ve never had pimiento cheese but I’ve seriously heard SO MUCH ABOUT IT recently that I think I need to give it a whirl. Plus your photos are pretty convincing. Looks delicious!

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    Nellie posted April 23, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your childhood story from the Philippines. I too love pimento cheese! It’s everywhere where I come from (Charleston, SC), so it holds a lot of nostalgic value for me as well. When I was growing up, one of our neighbors had a fantastic recipe for pimento cheese, and she’d bring some over to us whenever she made a large batch. It never lasted very long. :)

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    Megan posted April 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    What a wonderful story from your childhood ;) I haven’t tried Pimiento cheese before, but you make it look and sound so good!

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    Tania posted April 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    OMgosh I love pimento cheese. I’ve been seeing it as a burger topping lately… yum!
    Here’s my recipe: http://themusingbouche.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/pimento-cheese/

    • Bianca Garcia replied April 25th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Oooh Tania pimento cheese as a burger topping sounds wonderful!

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    Averie @ Averie Cooks posted June 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    pimiento cheese = a taste of my time in the South. I love this stuff!

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