Sunday morning quick hit: Pimento cheese!

Say cheese! That's Nana (aka Schatz), with  Pawpaw and my mother.
Say cheese! That’s Nana (aka Schatz), with Pawpaw and my mom. I wonder if the Easter Bunny hid a few jars of pimentos in the basket.

It’s not always about the food.

Sometimes it’s more about the memories surrounding the food than about the food itself, and that’s how I feel about pimento cheese.

Do I love pimento cheese? Of course I do, and to say otherwise would be inviting a Texas Ranger to my doorstep here in New Jersey, to whom I’d have to surrender my license as a Native Texan.

I can’t say pimento cheese makes my Top 10 Favorite Foods list, though maybe it comes in at number 11. Still, I make it at least once a year, and every time it’s a walk down memory lane and a labor of love for my Nana, the best pimento cheese maker of all-time.

Using a hand-crank grinder might be the thing that's eluded me in the making of a proper batch of pimento cheese.
Using a hand-crank grinder might be the thing that’s eluded me in the making of a proper batch of pimento cheese.

I’ll never forget her pushing chunks of longhorn cheese through the old hand-crank grinder that was attached to the kitchen table, and I’ll never forget the gooey cheese and pimentos oozing out the business end of the grinder and falling into the bowl.

My father, who happened to be the best pimento cheese eater of all time, always called Nana “Schatz” — a loving salute to her German ancestry — and I remember him going crazy over every batch of pimento cheese she ever produced.

Nobody could make it like Nana, though my mother developed some formidable pimento-cheese-making skills of her own. Perhaps hers couldn’t quite match Nana’s because my mom graduated to using an electric food processor, which is what I also used this morning.

It’s sad to reflect upon the gradual decay in the quality of pimento cheese in my family, and a reminder that I need to pass along to my own progeny what little skill remains.

No, I can’t make pimento cheese as tasty as what those two women in my maternal line could make, and I’ve given up trying to match theirs, knowing I’ll always fail. Instead, I whipped up my own recipe, as follows:

2 blocks of sharp Cheddar cheese
1 four-ounce jar of pimentos
3 diced fresh jalapeños, seeds and stems removed
Mayonnaise — enough to achieve desired texture

Just process all the ingredients, gradually adding the mayonnaise until everything is properly smooth, then refrigerate and enjoy some poignant memories along with your pimento cheese!

I recall Nana's pimento cheese as being redder (more pimentos) and chunked (less processing) than mine. Mine tastes pretty good, but when it comes to making pimento cheese, I am to Nana like a house painter is to Rembrandt.
I recall Nana’s pimento cheese as being redder (more pimentos) and chunkier (less processing) than mine. Mine tastes pretty good, but when it comes to making pimento cheese, I am to Nana what a house painter is to Rembrandt.

 

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10 Comments

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  1. Not sure I’ve ever seen pimiento cheese that smooth. What we grew up with had more cheese lumps in it, and LOT more peppers. Then again, our also had the “I” in there, too . . .

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  3. Nice food memory. I never had fresh pimento cheese until I was an adult (it was Aunt Dodie’s, at a memorial for Uncle Kenny). I loved it fresh, and Bob and I now make our own sometimes. Bob even has a hand grinder from his mom (although it is nothing like the one in your picture). Maybe we should try hand grinding!

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  4. Still never had fresh pimento cheese. Is it a Texas thing?

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