This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, March 31, 2005.

Pimento cheese

INGREDIENTS: (serves 2)

1/2 lb. (240g) sharp Cheddar cheese
4-ounce jar pimientos
1/4 teaspoon (1g) black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/3 cup (80g) mayonnaise

Choose freely from any of the following:
1 fresh jalapeño pepper or 1/4 cup sliced from the jar
1/8 teaspoon Colman's mustard powder
1/8 tsp wasabi powder
1 ounce prepared mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Heinz Chili Sauce
Louisiana Hot Sauce or other hot sauce
Etc., ad infinitum


1. Grate the cheese, using the side of a box grater with the large holes. (NOTE: I like to use a combination of sharp white and yellow Cheddar. You may also use your choice of mild, sharp, extra sharp or a combination.)

2. Drain the pimientos and chop them coarsely. (You can substitute roasted red peppers if pimientos aren't available, but for tradition's sake, look for the real thing.)

3. Put the grated cheese and chopped pimientos in a bowl. Add the black pepper, cayenne and salt to taste. (Since cheese is salty, you might go light on the salt at this point. You can always adjust seasoning at the end.) Blend it all together with a fork, adding the mayonnaise a little at a time and continuing to blend until everything is well mixed but still has a distinct texture. Don't try to save time with a food processor or blender. You don't want it smooth.

4. You can start eating it immediately, but old Southern cooks will tell you that the flavors "develop" if you spoon it into a tub or jar and let it sit for a couple of hours before serving. Refrigerate the leftovers, but bring it out before serving: Like a fine red wine, pimento cheese tastes best at room temperature. As noted above, it's customarily served as a sandwich spread or as a snack on crackers or in celery sticks.

5. VARIATIONS: Using all or part of the basic batch, add the optional flavor ingredients listed, or others like them, to your taste. I made a good, hot'n'spicy batch with one jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed and minced very fine, plus dashes of Colman's Mustard, wasabi and Worcestershire and a heaping tablespoon of Heinz Chili Sauce. I didn't want to overdo it ...

The most traditional beverage would be sweet iced tea, but just as wine and cheese are natural companions, I'd expect just about any fruity, reasonably acidic red wine - perhaps a Mediterranean-style red from Italy, Spain or the South of France or the New World equivalent - should make a fine match if you're having wine.

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