Pimento Cheese Spread

“Ruth, honey,” bawls “Hoppin’ JohnMartin Taylor over the phone to Ruth Fales at the Pinckney Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’m sending two hungry friends over for pamenuh cheese sandwiches, so pile it on heavy.” Of course, every Southerner thinks he or she knows what constitutes perfect pimento cheese, and even the few non-Southerners who know what the spread is can have a very resolute idea of how it should be made. In the South, PC is used for sandwiches, turned into dips and festive balls, and incorporated in burgers and breads, but never is it more popular than when spread on crackers or stuffed into celery for cocktail parties. While self-styled experts add everything to it from minced onion, garlic, hot peppers, and olives to horseradish and Tabasco, I say there’s still nothing like the simple, classic PC that I make at least once a week and keep in the refrigerator. Without question, it’s the most distinctive and sensual of all Southern spreads.

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  • ½ pound extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar cheese
  • ½ pound extra-sharp New York State cheddar cheese
  • One 7-ounce jar pimentos, drained
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • cup mayonnaise


Finely grate the two cheeses into a mixing bowl. On a plate, mash the pimentos well with a fork till they’re very pulpy. Add them to the cheeses along with the pepper, salt, and cayenne, and mix till well blended. Using a fork, fold in the mayonnaise and mash till the spread is smooth, adding a little more mayonnaise if it appears too dry.

Scrape the spread into a jar or crock, cover well, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving with crackers or using to make pimento cheese finger sandwiches. Keeps up to 1 week tightly covered in the refrigerator.