Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pimiento Cheese - You Are Not in _______ Anymore!

Lump crab cake from, a must have when
living in/visiting Maryland. And, this has nothing to do with pimento cheese.
 [Description: a high domed crab cake]
When I moved from my birth state, New York, to Baltimore, it was part of my acclimation to eat a crab cake. You couldn't possibly move near the Chesapeake Bay with their legendary Blue crabs without sampling a crab cake. If you didn't eat one, it was pure disrespect on your part, and if you turned your nose up at the delicacy, you risked life and limb in some neighborhoods. On top of that, you had to have one from the neighborhood dive as well as one from a high-end restaurant, because EVERYONE knew of a place that made the best crab cake "eva!"

Well, now that I've moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, part of becoming a native is to have some pimento cheese. And, just as Baltimoreans could argue over whether there should be more or less breading, how much oil should be in the pan when frying, and whether any other lump meat should be used besides Colossal or Jumbo, the die-hard advocates for pimento cheese are everywhere with their strong opinions (more like catechisms!) about what goes into making the "perfect pimento cheese." They are staunch in their beliefs, and are willing to go beyond the thought that pimento cheese is a nice spread. They are ready to tell you what makes it a delicacy bordering on manna from heaven.

Chicken & Pimento Cheese Tostitos (courtesy of My Three Sons)
First up, even though pimento cheese has origins outside of the South, I truly believe after doing a little research that our Southern cooks made this a native child. No one talks about the dubious parentage. Obviously, this dish has found its home, is welcome, and never has to roam again.

Funny thing, before I tasted it, I kept thinking, "What could be so fantastic about a mound of cheddar cheese spread?" That was my first mistake, but fortunately, I didn't utter this sacrilege out loud. I had no idea that when mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise, roasted red peppers and allowed to chill that cheddar cheese becomes transformed to a type of holy food.

So, I bought a tub of the stuff...from a grocery store. Big mistake, I was told by purists. If you are not going to make it yourself, then at least have the decency to buy from someone who cares! "Alright, alright!" I exclaimed, somewhat embarrassed at my cheesy (pun intended) attempt.

My next foray was into a Harris Teeter, where they had their own brand and several others jockeying for my attention. I picked out two brands and had an epiphany! Definitely, here were people who cared! OMGoodness! Here is the reason this deliciousness has survived throughout the generations and only continues to get better and better.

My Three Sons Original pimento cheese [Description: Tub of pimento cheese]
The first brand I picked out was My Three Sons (MTS) out of Greensboro, NC. That week, they were on sale. The 10 oz tub of goodness, produced by Cheryl and the Barnett/Trentini Family, sported a cheery orange label that was nostalgic and catchy at the same time. Once I opened the lid, I no longer wanted to even try and make pimento cheese on my own! Why mess with such perfect goodness!?!
Three flavors currently on the market from My Three Sons [Description: Emmy's Original, Fire Roasted Jalapeno and Spicy White Cheedar pimento cheese]

MTS is a chunky version that simply bursts with the tang of high quality cheddar. Nothing much else gets in the way of that taste, and I finished the contents of the generous 10 oz. tub in one short sitting. Based on a family recipe, it retains the feeling of a homemade treasure, something difficult to do once commercial. I decided this brand was a delicacy for me in my stingier moods. I mean, I could try to share it, but more likely, I will point you to the nearest Whole Foods or Fresh Market. No disrespect to any of my BFFs, but it is that good. This tub is mine, get your own. If you are looking for recipes from My Three Sons, please go here.

Next up was Palmetto Pimento Cheese in a slightly larger tub of 12 oz. Manufactured out of Pawley's Island, South Carolina by Sea View Inn owners, Sassy and Brian, this version piles on the flavor as well with just a little heat in both of the flavors I tried. I bought a Jalepeno and a Bacon, and while the Jalepeno was pleasantly mild enough to eat with crackers, tortilla chips and my personal favorite, BBQ potato chips, the Bacon has become a household mainstay.The minute you peel back the cover, the smoky bacon aroma hits you, and the combination of cheese and bacon comes together so smoothly, your mind will automatically begin to think "How many different ways can I use this?"
Palmetto Cheese. Go to the website to read the story about the woman featured on the lid.

[Description: Three tubs of Palmetto Pimento cheese stacked on top of each other: Jalapenos, Original, Bacon]

At a Palmetto Cheese demo in Harris Teeter, I picked up recipes for a Sausage Dip and Deviled Eggs. But, please, go to the website and look through all their recipes. We have already made the Cheesy Grits, and I have eaten this stuff on everything from ice-cold celery sticks to whole wheat toasted tortilla triangles.

So, as you have probably guessed by now, I am a convert. There will be a tub of pimento cheese in my fridge at any given time of the year. I am stuck on these two brands, but please feel free to let me know of a favorite brand where you live. Also, if you have a favorite recipe (possibly passed down from a past generation?), and you feel like sharing, please feel free to post a link or the whole recipe!

Pimento Cheese. You don't have to be southern to love it, but realize if you live anywhere near the south, you are going to have someone tell you about "the best pimento cheese in town!" And, I will be in line!



  1. Hi Judith! Really enjoyed reading your article on pimento cheese. If there is one thing that we have learned, it's that people are passionate about their pimento cheese. We are thankful that they are, and appreciate it even more when they stop and take the time to write about us. Thank you for helping spread the soul for Palmetto Cheese :)

  2. Thank you so much for your comments! We just finished our last tub of Bacon...time to head to the store again! We love spreading the soul for you!

  3. Judith...I know this is an old blog but I have to make a comment. I live in New York state and since my last trip to South Carolina I am on a quest for some real pimento cheese..not that crap in a jar from Kraft.
    On occasion I ask the manager of a local grocery store (Woodstock, NY) to order me special items and he always comes through....Moroccan Ghoribas? " here Wednesday" Elephant beer from Thailand? "Sure thing, light or dark?" chocolate covered bees from France? "Hold on, think there's some in stock" okay...pimento cheese from South Carolina? "Uh....sorry....don't have a supplier" ARGHHH! It's a plot to suppress southern cuisine in yankee-land. I curse those involved with incurable bed sores.
    I tried making my own...I can't boil water without burning it. My present choices are finding an online supplier or just do the right thing and move...:)

  4. Get the to thy online supplier at your convenience. Palmetto Cheese has a great website and FB page to keep up with everything they are doing, plus they have fantastic recipes!

    1. That was supposed to be "thee." Darned non-editing software! Good luck and let me know if you order some!