Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For Maggie, by special request

Pimiento Cheese. Pim-eee-en-toe is what that looks like. Perhaps pim-yen-toe.

But Paminna Cheese, the good old Grandma of all Southern spreads, is not of those pronunciations or provenance. It's not entered into lightly, not if you want the REAL stuff.

It's not my Mother's version, with mild or American cheese, little flecks of smushed-into-pulp pimiento, and chopped sweet pickles (in our case LIME pickles, a family standby since Mother tasted the canned version made by my first MIL, made one "making," and claimed it for her own).

And it's certainly not that pink Velveeta paste with a little mayo, served up and lurking in every Dairy Case in every Safeway, Sunflower, Winn-Dixie and Food Club below the Mason/Dixon. Those clear little round cartons, how they woo the unwary, how they call to the quick-minded hostess, the gotta-make-a-snack, the hasty-sandwich-platter people. That lifeless goo has appeared soft and comfy on Wonder Bread, on Ritz, and painstakingly stuffed into Bugles at more Bridal Teas, Preacher Poundings, Coke Parties, afternoon socials and garden club meetings than the most sociable of guests.

That stuff is a comfort food, of sorts; it is squishy and mild and bland, and a white-bread sandwich made with it is the Movie Extra of foods: there, and useful in its way, but just hovering in the background while the real action takes place.

REAL Paminna Cheese (always capitalized, and spelled like it sounds) is a lusty, tangy, splendid mouthful of bright flavors which delight your tastebuds and make you smile. It's the easy-to-put-together quick spread of all time---no eggs to boil, no creamcheese to bring to room temp and smoosh around, nothing to chop or measure (though I've become addicted to making it with just-minced whole roasted red peppers, usually Trader Joe's, as we always have them in the fridge, and I even throw in a little pour of the juice from the jar).

And I DO wish Kraft would catch on to grating the SHARP cheese into those little fine threads like they do some of the other flavors---I grew a great fondness for the PC of my first MIL, who ground the whole shebang through the finest little holes in her big ole clamp-it-on-the-counter sausage grinder---hers came out a bit like clay, and we probably coulda made little fruit and pink piggies out of the stuff, like marzipan.

The ingredients are simple, and can be changed according to anyone's taste; ramping up the tang is easy, with more mustard, more L&P; it can be rosier with all the peppers you like---two minced makes a fine combo with a six-cup pack of the cheese.

And this is a please-yourself recipe---get yourself several teaspoons out of the drawer before you start, and take a wee taste as you go. I always envision that people making this recipe take a spoontip and taste it, making that little tip-tip-tip sound, then clanging the spoon into the sink before adjusting the quantities and dimensions, grabbing another spoon for another smick, until the proper perfection is reached.

Lo, and BEHOLD!!! I just went to the fridge to verify the size of the package in the drawer, and it's FINELY shredded. Sometimes you can find it. It's the two-cup size (I buy whatever size is the best price total, even if I have to buy three small to make one big---that's Southern Kitchen math. Or perhaps just my own. Oh. Well).


A Two-Cup pack of Kraft SHARP, finely grated
One jar of pimiento, buy chopped or whole---cut them as you see fit
Squirt of French's Yellow
Coupla glugs of Lea & Perrins
Big spoondig out of the cute little Durkee's Sauce jar
Good-sized clop of Mayo---Duke's or Blue Plate for the REAL experience, but Kraft's OK
Several good grinds of the Pepper Mill

Stir it all up in a medium-sized bowl, and taste a teensy bite. Adjust any and all quantities to suit yourself. A lot of L&P will make it kinda tan, but still delicious. This fits perfectly into one of the flat Glad-Boxes, and seems to benefit from the close confinement, sorta all soaking up everything else's good natures and making the whole thing WAY good. Like a close-knit Sunday School Class or maybe Group Therapy.

For the authentic experience, serve it with Premium saltines, or Ritz crackers.

Makes a KILLER grilled cheese, especially on Sourdough or rye. It's also SPLENDIFEROUS on those asparagus roll-up things that were so popular about twenty years ago. And spooned over a fresh-off-the-grill sirloin burger, enclosed inside a buttered-skillet-sizzled bun---the Bleu Cheese proponents have no idea.

And ANYTHING served surrounded by Devilled Eggs is sure to be a hit.


Keetha said...

Boy, do I love P&C. Especially in the summertime.

Now I'm craving it. :-)

(You may enjoy this: http://kudzukitchen.blogspot.com/2008/05/thems-fighting-words.html)

Lili said...

I, being unfortunately from mostly the north, have gone my whole life without this stuff. Even when I stay with family down in Georgia, I don't see it. Maybe they think it's not fancy enough for visiting Yankees, but...well, I feel deprived. I am going to make this. Maybe Saturday, when I have shredded cheese in the house. I've been thinking about it for years, and now I think I -need- it.

racheld said...

I once received an invitation to a party with naught but the address, time, and the words, "JAZZ AND BEER."

I've oft thought that to be the neatest invite I'd ever gotten, and am now thinking if it were extended to encompass FOUR words,


there would no dearth of takers, and nary a single un-answered RSVP.

I'm off to inform Miss Manners---social problem of the decades solved in one swell foop.

Anonymous said...

This is the best recipe I have ever seen..it has a squirt, a couple of glugs and a spoondig..for this alone I will try it!! Thank you Rachel!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hearing my call! I have some TJ pimentos in the fridge and a micrograter for the cheddar. Sounds mighty, mighty fine -- as do the cat biscuits,


racheld said...

Good for EVERYBODY!!! I hope you try it/have tried it/are still in swoons of delight from the sheer glory of it.

And Maggie, if you tell me you also have a graceful little jar of Durkee's in your fridge, with the smooth shape and the snazzy turquoise lid---I'll bow down and call you Blessed. That would be entirely Too Much Sugar for a Dime.

And for those who don't, but would like to experience the tangy, breath-stopping exuberance of that wonderful condiment: It's usually up on the top shelf of the store, above the mayo or mustards, small and gently curved from the striking blue lid down into smoothly bountiful hips, jaunty label like a bright carnival banner announcing the delights to come.

And Bev: Welcome to the Super-Technical glories of Southern Measurements. Next up: Smitch, Dab, Pinch, Handful, and Shake.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to it Rachel!