Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese…

80DB15D0-3FF3-49C8-BB76-D2BB0F852A13Mimi never knew her pimento cheese won an award, it would have thrilled her, yet I don’t think she’d have been too surprised. Anyone who ever tasted one of her Tea Sandwiches would have agreed. Her recipe for Pimento Cheese was highly prized. Mimi kept a bowl of pimento cheese made up most of the time. My job was to grate the sharp cheddar cheese, in a little cheese grater with a handle which I turned in amazement. It’s still one of my favorite kitchen tools.

44EB0E2F-C33C-4B48-BA4A-28647A0D9AC4The grated cheese was as fine as angel hair- Mimi’s Pimento Cheese was devilishly spiced, I’m not sure she ever wrote down the recipe but I can still see her now, conjuring up a mixture that’s pure Southern Soul in a bowl. It’s only sharp cheddar cheese, a jar of pimentos and mayonnaise- the spices make Mimi’s Pimento Cheese memorable. Cayenne, Red Pepper Flakes and what we call Pepper Sauce, the brine from a jar of hot peppers that we use to spice things up and even pour over turnip greens or blackeyed peas. Pepper Sauce is one of those secret ingredients that even now, mostly only real southerners know. Go to a local meat and three in small towns across the South and you’ll see a small bottle of pickled hot peppers with a hole in the top of the bottle- a shaker if you will. The bottle’s not there for anyone to actually eat the peppers- no, it’s for the brine, the ‘sauce’ . Pit masters add pepper sauce to their barbecue sauces, old wisened cooks hardly even think about adding pepper sauce to their cooking. Pepper Sauce isn’t the same as ‘hot sauce’ that fiery red hot sauce shaken over… well, lots of things. Mimi added several drops of hot sauce to her Egg Salad but never in her Award Winning Pimento Cheese! So! Here’s how you make it!

Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese

The classic and highly prized southern classic- Pimento Cheese. Spicy with cayenne pepper and sharp cheddar cheese, is wonderful for tea sandwiches, picnic sandwiches and as a dip for crackers or celery sticks. 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 12 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely Grated * Do not use pre- grated!
  • 1 Small Jar Pimentos - partially drained Do not use ‘diced’
  • 1/2-3/4 Cup Good Quality Mayonnaise * look for lemon juice in the ingredients
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Brine of pickled hot peppers * clear vinegary liquid only

Instructions

  • On the fine side of a box grater, shred sharp cheddar cheese.. In a medium sized bowl, put grated cheese. Add brine of hot pepper to fill partially drained jar of pimentos. Add cayenne pepper to pimento jar also. Scoop Mayonnaise over grated cheese. Pour spiced pimentos over Mayonnaise and add red pepper flakes. Stir gently to combine. Mimi’s Pimento Cheese will occasionally need additional mayonnaise- add a bit at a time to desired consistency. Chill, until ready to use. Spread thinly for tea sandwiches. 

Notes

Mimi’s Pimento Cheese is a time tested recipe - she often used extra sharp cheese, please do not try this recipe with pre- grated packaged cheese. Fine Grated Cheese is best, however you may like a chunkier Pimento Cheese and a food processor will work well for that.. It is wonderful molded with an indention in the center filled with red pepper jelly or strawberry jam, then surrounded with party crackers...it’s a crowd pleaser! For Tea sandwiches, a thinned out version (do this with more mayonnaise bit by bit) spread thinly on loaf bread, crusts removed,  cut into desired shapes with a serrated knife. Pimento Cheese is used to top burgers, to make grilled cheese and many other uses. Mimi would probably have disapproved, still,  enjoy it however you wish! 

Now a word of caution, don’t use pre-grated cheese, it won’t work! And don’t even think about using a milder cheddar cheese, use sharp or even extra sharp cheddar. The flavor depends on it! Finely grated is best, I never saw Mimi use even a medium grate. Still. It’s not just about ingredients- it’s about the Method too! And if you have a recipe for Pimento Cheese that contains Cream Cheese? Well, Mimi would have been horrified. Don’t use it. Period.

Now- this is important- don’t buy diced pimentos, buy pimentos. And don’t get fancy and add roasted red pepper. Okay, not if you want the Award Winning taste. You may add an extra small jar if you like, though one will do.  Just partially drain the jar of pimentos, leave them in the jar, fill up the jar with the pepper sauce, add the cayenne pepper- screw the lid of the jar back on the pimentos and gently shake before adding to the grated cheese and mayonnaise.

Now, about that mayonnaise- Mimi made her own for years, until she found brands of store bought mayonnaise that contained lemon juice in the ingredients! This is a must! Truth be told she didn’t always add red pepper flakes, yet when she did? Mimi thought they gave her Pimento Cheese flecks of color that she liked to see.  The sharp cheddar, the cool mayonnaise and pimentos are the perfect balance for the heat of the pepper sauce and the spices! Trust me on this.

Now, about that Award… Several years ago, I was cajoled out of Mimi’s recipe, this friend also had a recipe for another famous Pimento Cheese- which was also entered in this fairly high fallutin’ private contest. The competition was fierce, the folks who attended had fine credentials. By all accounts it was a well orchestrated event. I have to say, I wasn’t one bit surprised  her pimento cheese on first place. After all, it was Mimi’s and her Pimento Cheese has always been First Place to me!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. As you can see, I couldn’t resist making up a few Tea Sandwiches…

Purses, passion and pimento cheese…

imageThis is my grandmother, Betty Jo Sparks Holmes, standing by a fence in Alabama with her small son and her young brother. This photograph was taken in the late 1920’s. She was a working woman beginning in the late 50’s –  because her husband and her son were disabled. For almost 20 years she rode a bus to downtown Birmingham to work as a florist. She could squeeze a dollar harder than anyone I have ever known and get more out of it too! She was passionate about her work, her home and her family; always making sure her home was clean and beautiful and that there was something on the table that was fit to eat. To this day some of the best food I have ever eaten, the best meals I make, came from MiMi.  I still use her recipes and methods to make good food for my family or for pretty tea sandwiches –2015-06-05 12.02.11 I even grocery shop with her advice filling my head! No one ever left her home hungry; she was immensely talented and seriously funny. She believed in the old ways of putting out fresh tea towels, using the good silver often and being grateful enough to write a thank you note or compassionate enough to write a sympathy card. And she continued to do these things whether her pocketbook was full or not. This week, in her honor and in honor of other amazing women I know- I hand painted a ‘spring collection’ of notecards with cute little handbags.image

Susan B. Anthony said, ‘A woman should always have her own purse.’ This week in Birmingham Alabama, 100’s of women, with purses of their own, raised over $600,000 for victims of domestic violence. The YWCA Purse and Passion luncheon has been raising money and awareness in Central Alabama for over 15 years, they do an amazing amount of work which benefits women and children who often do not have access to safety or a purse of their own. These passionate women are proof that when a woman has a ‘purse of her own’ she can be a tremendous help and an outspoken voice for less fortunate women. The YWCA of Central Alabama is living proof that a passionate young woman named Susan B. Anthony was right about women and their ability to be a force for good and actually do need a purse of their own! In the 19th century, she began fighting for women to have the right to go to school, she went to school then began her own career as a teacher who fought for decent wages for teachers. She became convinced that women should have the right own personal property and earn a decent wage no matter what work she did. Ms. Anthony believed that the only way these things would ever become the law of the land was if women also had the right to vote. The passionate activist, Susan B. Anthony, died before women received the right to vote early in the 20th century, 1920, I believe. In Alabama, 90 years ago this week,voting rights for women weren’t  extended until 1956, more than 30 years after the rest of the nation.  Fast forward to the 21st century as famous Alabamian, Lily Ledbetter, also fought for several decades for equal pay for women. A bill with her name on it was signed in 2009- more than 100 years after Susan B. Anthony died. Yes, ‘Women should have a purse of their own.’

As a bonus, to honor these women- I will make available the closely guarded recipe for my grandmother’s award winning pimento cheese.

It is the best pimento cheese you will ever eat! If  you register your email address with Camellia’s Cottage, we’ll let you in on it! Use the sign up box or email:  brenda@camelliascottage.com

As always we will never ask for your height, your shoe size, when you started dying your hair or where you were when you got those redbug bites. We will never share your email address with anyone, we will never ask if the weight on your driver license is the same as the weight showing on your bathroom scale, we will always let you unsubscribe if you want to- but we hope you won’t, because we’ll never let you leave Camellia’s Cottage without knowing that we are grateful you stopped by! We’ll leave the light on…

Love y’all, Camellia

Grace and Grit –http://amzn.to/1XzrcBX Grace and Grit

Susan B. Anthony –Susan B. Anthony

YWCA YWCA

Visit YWCA of Central Alabama’s website – www.ywcabham.org