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Pimiento cheese quest

In one of my occasional bouts of being suddenly fascinated with something to the point that I must learn enough about it to become a subject matter expert, I find myself engrossed with pimiento/pimento cheese. I've been taken by a notion to have a good recipe for it in my repertoire.

Libby Johnson, a lady from my hometown, made the best pimiento cheese I've ever had. The only problem is that the last time I had it, I wasn't old enough to analyze it and reverse engineer it by taste. She's been gone a year and four months now, and I still can't believe she's no longer with us. She died too suddenly to pass her super-secret recipe along to her daughter, so it is lost with her ... just a wonderful memory.

I keep trying to find something that's equally good, and now I'm sort of on a quest.

You see, pimiento cheese is really sort of fascinating from a cultural, anthropological, Southern Foodways sort of perspective. There are regional variations, like type of mayonnaise (Duke's vs. Hellman's), sugar vs. no sugar, and so on. Iced tea has been called the house wine of the South, and pimento cheese its paté. I once read that, in some parts of Korea, a woman cannot marry a man until she has learned to make his family's kimchi recipe. While I'm not sure pimiento cheese has achieved quite that elevated a status, there are quite a few folks in this part of the country that are fairly passionate about it.

I've tried:
  • Linton Hopkins' Pimento Cheese
    I've had the real thing at his restaurant, but I'm still just a little too hesitant to use homemade mayonnaise. Maybe I'll work up to it, since most of the successful recipes include it as a component.

  • Paula Deen's Pimento Cheese
    My sister made a batch of this, and substituted Emeril's Essence for Paula's house seasoning. It was pretty good, but a little mild for my taste.


Articles about pimiento cheese:


There's got to be a way to perfect this; to develop an outstanding signature recipe. I've been thinking about just the tiniest bit of smoked cheddar ... just as an accent, not enough to overpower. I'm also musing about using shallot, rather than onion. Onion is just so assertive, so forward, so extrovertedly, "Hi, I'm onion!" unless it has been tamed or balanced by some other process or ingredient. Shallot is a little more understated and demure. :)

Anyway, that's my current whim, in case anyone was wondering.

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