Growing up one of my mother’s favorite snacks was pimento cheese. Perhaps it’s because we lived in the north (I’ve since learned it’s a longtime southern favorite), but she never made her own. Instead, she bought this small jarred version of pimento cheese. For a special treat for all of us, she’d put tiny squares of rye bread topped with pimento cheese on a plate. I thought they were okay, but as a girl, would have preferred another snack.

I didn’t think about pimento cheese for years until I was at a local restaurant a few months ago and discovered that one of their appetizers is pimento cheese. Curious, I decided to order some. What a revelation! This pimento cheese was tasty, with big chunks of pimento (unlike my mother’s jarred version that was perfectly smooth) and a variety of seasonings, some giving a bit of heat to the mixture. At the restaurant, they serve it with celery pieces, which provide a lovely contrast to the heat of the cheese. Clearly this is not my mother’s pimento cheese.

When I got home I began checking out the web for information about pimento cheese and discovered all kinds of recipes and over Thanksgiving I made a modified version of a recipe at the Texas Co-Op Power site.  I loved the addition of green olives and capers to the cheese. I cut back on the mayonnaise (and used a “light” version). I added Tabasco sauce but not jalapenos. And because I’m not overly fond of raw onions I used part of a shallot instead, as I usually find shallots to be quite mild. That’s where I went wrong. I had tasted the cheese before I added the shallot and quite liked it. But I must have picked up a super-strong shallot, because once added it completely overwhelmed the mixture. I put it in the refrigerator overnight hoping the flavors would all meld together, but the onion taste was still overwhelming. Fortunately I discovered that the mixture made a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, so used it that way. But it wasn’t what I’d planned.

I may try the same recipe again over Christmas, but this time will use onion powder rather than raw onions. Alternatively, I’ve found a number of other recipes from basic to more fancy. I found a recipe at allrecipes.com that includes cream cheese, which also sounds interesting. I’ve also seen some recipes where people roast their own red peppers rather than using pimentos; I think I’ll stick with the pimentos.

Have you ever made pimento cheese? If so, what do you like to put in it. And have you ever discovered a completely different version of something your mother prepared?

-LinnieGayl