Have you ever had pimiento cheese? My mom makes the best pimiento cheese – a savory, tangy cheese spread with just a hint of spice – and it's a taste that takes me right back to my parents' house and my childhood. It's delicious as a sandwich between two toasty pieces of bread or simply slathered on saltine cracker. I can (and have!) made many meals of pimiento cheese and crackers. Apparently pimiento cheese is a Southern thing if you're wondering why you haven't heard of it. I grew up in Austin, Texas which isn't really the South but my parents are from the Memphis area. And so, along with a love of Elvis, they passed on a love of pimiento cheese to me. And now I hope I can pass it on to you!
Pimiento cheese is a bit of an undertaking to make – dragging out a heavy food processor is required – so the appearance of pimiento cheese was a special occasion in our house. Growing up I remember my mom making her pimiento cheese around the holidays, and she still does! She gifts it in small round containers along with a sleeve of saltine crackers. Last year I decided to adopt the tradition for myself. I was nervous to make it for the first time and worried about whether I'd get it just right. But when I dipped a saltine cracker into the first batch and put it in my mouth I tasted home and Christmas and childhood.
This year I made three batches (that's six pounds of cheese!) and am gifting containers, along with saltines of course, to my book club and a few neighbors and friends. For the past couple of years I've found holiday-themed round Ziplock containers that are perfect for gifting pimiento cheese. I've been thrilled to find that Dash loves pimiento cheese. For a not super adventurous eater I'm impressed that he likes something with such a distinct taste. when he saw me giving a container of this to someone at school pick up recently he looked at me with big eyes and said, "Mama, do we have ta-mento cheese at home??"
To make this recipe of pimiento cheese there's one ingredient that might be unfamiliar: Durkee Famous Sauce, or Durkee's as we call it. It's a tangy mayo-mustard condiment and is key to the great taste of this pimiento cheese. My mom hasn't been able to find it at her local grocery store any more but has found it at another local Austin grocer (Central Market). I was able to find it among the mayonnaise at my local grocery store. Hopefully you can find it locally too! If not you can order it online although it's definitely more expensive that way.
If you'd like to try your hand at making some pimiento cheese, or p-cheese as we call it sometimes, I'd love to share the recipe. One batch makes enough to keep some for yourself and to gift to friends (who will love you forever and ask when you're making more).
Mom's Pimiento Cheese
from the Cotton Country Cookbook
2 lbs block sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
7 oz diced pimientos, drained
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 bottle (5 oz) Durkee Famous Sauce
1/2 t cayenne pepper
16 oz mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
Using a 14-cup or larger food processor, grate the cheddar cheese. I use a 14-cup food processor and 2 lbs of grated cheese fills it up. Transfer the grated cheese to a large bowl. Remove the grating attachment from the food processor and put in the mixing blade. This is not a sharp chopping blade! The mixing blade is shaped like the chopping blade but isn't sharp at all.
With the mixing blade installed, add all remaining ingredients to the food processor. Add grated cheese to the top of the food processor (not all of it will fit at first) and turn on the food processor to mix. As the cheese becomes incorporated add the remaining cheese and continue mixing until the mixture is consistent throughout. Although the mixing blade isn't sharp it does cut the shreds of cheese a bit and creates a creamy pimiento cheese.
Transfer to containers and keep refrigerated. This recipe will make two quarts, or fills four of the two-cup containers I have pictured. Gift to friends along with a sleeve of saltine crackers. Enjoy!