Pimento cheese doesn’t have to be eaten in a sandwich – and neither does it need to contain pimento. Say what?! Before you flay us alive for our heresy, let us hurriedly explain that we replaced the pickled pepper with fermented home-made kimchi. And we, frankly, think it’s even better.
Pimento cheese, the iconic spread of the American south, turns out not to be very southern at all – at least in terms of its origins. It’s so associated with the south that it’s hard to imagine the spread (a mix of cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise and diced red pimentos) as coming from anywhere else, but our friends at Serious Eats did a little digging and discovered that pimento cheese actually got its start up north, in New York, as a way to market the burgeoning production of cream cheese.
In the 1870s, New York farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese, similar to Neufchâtel, that eventually evolved into cream cheese. Around the same time, Spain started exporting canned red peppers — or “pimiento” — to the United States. Eventually a combination of the cheese, peppers and mayonnaise became the spread we know today and like any good origin story, the lore soon outgrew its humble beginnings and pimento cheese became a staple of church picnics and neighborhood potlucks and fancy restaurants all over the southern U.S.
While most loved between two slices of bread, the cheese spread is versatile enough to lend itself to a variety of uses – as a dip, as a topping (think cheeseburgers, or our favorite, patty melts), and even as a stuffing for meats like chicken breasts, or pork chops.