Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese in Ramekin and on Party Rye

This Southern Spread is Perfect for Parties

Need an idea for a party appetizer?  Something you can spread on crackers, or maybe make into bite-size sandwiches using those miniature loaves of party rye? 

How about Pimento Cheese?  This great tasting combination of cheddar cheese and pimentos is a much-loved indulgence in the southern United States. And it’s becoming popular throughout the rest of the country, especially at New Years’ Eve and Superbowl parties.

You can buy commercially prepared Pimento Cheese at many grocery stores these days, but it’s nothing like homemade. And when you make it yourself, you can spice it up (or not) to suit your own taste. Best of all, it takes literally minutes to make. It’s so simple, an eight year old (or even a non-cooking spouse!) can make it.

If Pimento Cheese is new to you, you’ve got a treat in store. But you might want to make a double batch. Once you taste it, you’ll be eating lots of it — just to make up for all that lost time.


Pimento Cheese and Cracker on Black Acrylic

Recipe:  Pimento Cheese

To make Pimento Cheese, you just combine grated cheese (usually cheddar, and IMO the sharper the better) with canned pimentos, mayonnaise, and seasonings.  That’s it! 

You can vary the recipe to suit your own taste:  Use different types of cheese(s), use roasted fresh red peppers instead of canned pimentos, add garlic or onion, or whatever.  We’ll discuss some variations in the Notes.  But for my money, the basic original recipe is the best.  Even so, you’ll want to taste this dish as you’re preparing it, and adjust ingredient quantities to suit yourself.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare (plus at least 2 hours to chill in the refrigerator so the flavors comingle).  It yields about 1½ cups, but I usually double the quantity.  You can store Pimento Cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Ingredients
  • ½ pound grated cheddar cheese, preferably sharp or extra-sharp (I often buy the packaged that’s already been grated; see Notes)
  • one 4-ounce jar canned pimentos (see Notes)
  • ¼ to ½ cup mayonnaise (basically to taste; I prefer more rather than less)
  • black pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon for me)
  • salt to taste (optional, but I find some is needed; a couple of big pinches is usually enough)
  • cayenne pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon for me; but it you don’t like spicy, use less or omit it)
Procedure
  1. Grate the cheese (if not using the packaged grated variety).  Add cheese to a mixing bowl.
  2. Drain the pimentos, and add to the mixing bowl with the cheese.
  3. Add about half the mayonnaise you think you’ll need, and mix together.  In addition to adding flavor, the mayo helps “dilute” the cheese so you’ll get a nice, spreadable texture.  Keep adding mayonnaise until you get the consistency you want.
  4. Add black pepper, optional salt, and cayenne to taste.  (You may want to add a bit at a time and keep tasting.)  Stir well to incorporate.  The longer you mix the ingredients, the smoother the cheese will become.  But a chunky texture is nice — and that’s what I usually make.
  5. Pack the Pimento Cheese into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least two hours so the flavors develop.
  6. To serve, bring to room temperature (you can refrigerate leftovers with no worries).  Serve with crackers or “party size” bread slices.  Some people like to spread Pimento Cheese on celery “boats.” You can even make toasted cheese sandwiches with it. 
Pimento Cheese in Ramekin and on Party Rye

Notes
  • It’s traditional to use sharp cheddar cheese in this recipe, but regular or mild cheddar also works, if that’s what you prefer.  Most people use yellow cheese, but feel free to substitute white cheddar.
  • If you’re buying supermarket brand cheese (which is fine for this recipe), you might want to consider buying the stuff that’s already grated.  Although I often look down my nose at convenience foods, I once did a taste test comparing the regular and grated cheddar cheese sold under my supermarket’s house brand.  I couldn’t tell the difference!  Plus the grated variety was actually cheaper than the chunk cheese.  Go figure.
  • Many people like to use a mix of cheeses in this dish (for example, half cheddar and half mild white cheese, such as Monterey Jack).  Or for added flavor, maybe a Pepper Jack.
  • Others like to include a bit of cream cheese.  For this recipe, you might try adding 2 ounces.  If you do so, you’ll probably need less mayo — probably no more than ¼ cup.
    Bottom-line when it comes to cheese:  Use what you like.  Make the recipe as written once so you’ll know the basics; then start playing with it.
  • Canned pimentos are traditional in this dish.  They add some flavor, but it’s mainly their color that’s appealing.  If you double this recipe (as I usually do), you can use either one 7-ounce jar or two 4-ounce jars (I generally use the 7-ounce job.)
  • If you want to get fancy, you can roast a whole red pepper instead of using canned pimento.  Once the pepper is roasted, remove the blackened skin, and cut into small dice.
  • If you live in the southern United States, you’ll probably use Duke brand mayonnaise when you make Pimento Cheese.  But Duke is not available in most of the country, so elsewhere Hellman’s (in the western US it’s called Best) is the mayo of choice.  Or you can use homemade, of course.  Miracle Whip doesn’t work well in this recipe (it’s too sweet).
  • This recipe invites add-ins:  Diced garlic, onions, fresh hot peppers (jalapeños are my favorite), dill pickles — if it sounds good to you, it probably is.
  • Same thing with seasonings:  Paprika (preferably the smoked kind), hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic or onion powder — again, if it sounds good to you, it probably is.
Pimento Cheese in Ramekin and on Party Rye

Bring on the New Year Celebrations!

Pimento Cheese is excellent party fare.  So maybe you’ll want to feature it at your annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza?  It’s almost guaranteed to be a hit.

If you need ideas for other party food, you might onsider California Clam Dip, Velveeta Tex-Mex Dip, Salsa and Picante Sauce, Cheese Straws, Homemade Chex Mix, or Microwave Popcorn.

Or how about Salmon Cream Cheese Dip? We haven’t talked about that one yet. But I’ll feature it in my next post — the last one of the year!

You may also enjoy reading about:
Salsa and Picante Sauce
Cheese Straws
California Clam Dip
Homemade Chex Mix
Velveeta Tex-Mex Dip
Microwave Popcorn
Pickled Watermelon Rind

76 comments:

  1. I love, love, love pimento cheese ... in fact, it may be in my "top 5" of favorite foods!

    Great post ... you've inspired me to make some pimento cheese this week!

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    1. Hi Kimberely, isn't it good stuff? I'm happy I inspired you to make some of this! Enjoy. ;-) And thanks for the comment.

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  2. We have something similar when I was growing up and I love it. This yummy recipe of yours is a good reminder of that sandwich mom used make for us. Thank you, John! :)

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    1. Hi Ray, I've read that a version of pimento cheese is popular in the Philippines. Glad to remind you of your mom's sandwich! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I remember my mother buying the jars of pimento cheese. She loved the stuff, but I wasn't a fan. I'm going to make this for her. I'll be she'll be a convert to the real stuff in no time flat. Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Kristi, some of the commercial stuff isn't that good, IMO (some use process "cheese food"). Homemade is so much better! Nice of you to make it for your mom, even though it's not something you enjoy. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year to you!

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  4. Your pimento cheese looks and sounds really yummy! I think this would be a hit at any party or I could just keep it for myself.

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    1. Hi Dawn, keeping it for yourself is an excellent option! And if you ever share it at a party, you'll have a bunch of new best friends. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I have been saying for forever that I'm going to make some Pimento Cheese. I've never had it, if you can believe that. Yours looks pretty tasty there. Hope you and the Mrs. have been enjoying the holidays.
    -Gina-

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    1. Hi Gina, you definitely should make this - it's so tasty, and really takes only a few minutes. We've been having a great holiday, and hope you have too. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. I am one of those who have never tried this and I can't wait to give it a go. Probably with roasted red pepper because I don't think I can find pimento here.
    Thank you for sharing this, I think it will be an instant hit in my house

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    1. Hi Sawsan, roasted red peppers actually have superior flavor to the canned pimentos, IMO, so although it's a bit more work, the payoff is worth it. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Pimento Cheese is new to me and now I need to try it. To be honest I love cheese and a baked one ins my favorite.

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    1. Hi Marta, spread this stuff on toast and you have a great breakfast! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. I feel like I have been teleported back into time. I have not had this appetizer dish for at least ... well I can't say as that might give away my age so I will just say a very, very ,very long time. I love this appetizer and my mom used to only make it for very special events when we had company over. Now with your delightful little retro recipe, I can make my own any time. Wishing you and Mrs. Kitchen Riff a very happy 2013. Take care, BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, I hope you have a great New Year, too. Isn't this a fun recipe? I haven't made this for ages, and I don't know why - it's so good, and it's a real favorite of Mrs K R (I eat my share, too!). Thanks for the comment.

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  9. A great idea! I've tried it-the spicy variety- and we all ( friends and family) loved it!

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    1. Hi Daniela, isn't it good? I agree about the spicy. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. We always do freshly made pimento cheese over croutons as an amuse bouche at the restaurant and it's always a hit! This looks great =)

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    1. Hi Peggy, using this over croutons is very creative. I like it! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. A good friend is from Texas and she can was poetic about pimento cheese. I know I look at her quizzically when she does...but then my only experience had been that jarred stuff my mom used to buy a bazillion years ago.

    I guess I need to move beyond that experience huh and give cheese a chance. :)

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    1. Hi Barbara, you definitely need to try the fresh. Some of the jarred stuff is quite good, but an awful lot is so-so at best. Definitely time to give cheese a chance. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I can imagine this delivers a flavour power punch - a great idea for a party. and, as you said, there could be allsorts of add-ins.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, this works extremely well for a party, and with different add-ins — or cheeses — you could make a couple of different varieties. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I have never even heard of this before but it sounds amazing. I like pimento and I like cheese so I'm sure I will love this! I am currently compiling a huge list of appetizers and dips to bring to a NYE party and if I can find all of the ingredients for this in the grocery then i'm making it!

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    1. Hi Natalie, I hope you'll enjoy this! I'll bet it will be a hit at your NYE party. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. I love pimento cheese and have never thought of making it. Although I venture to say I'm probably the only one in my family that likes it. This is a great idea. So glad you've shared this. I bet it would be yummy stuffed into something too!

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    1. Hi Vicki, that just means more for you. ;-) Using this as a stuffing mixture is also a great idea. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. This looks perfectly delicious for anytime. I would like to try it with artisan crackers and possibly celery boats as you described. It is so much better than some of the same appetizers I am always preparing. Thank you and Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Judy, artisan crackers would be great with this (actually the cracker in the second — black acrylic — picture is an artisan cracker). Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Oh my, this looks so good! I love anything with cheddar, the sharper the better!

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    1. Hi Jeanne, sharp cheddar is so good with this. Really delish stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. You're right, these would be perfect for that dinner party. I'm always running out of ideas for something quick that caters to most people. Merry Christmas - I hope this season brought about many second servings :)

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    1. Hi Adrian, this really is good party fare because people can serve themselves, and it's something most people will like. Alas, the season has brought me way too many second servings! Like, of this great spread. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  18. Variations on a theme! Since my European childhood I still oft make Liptauer: cream or cottage cheese with paprika, onion etc. Somehow this rings a somewhat similar bell :) ! Delightful :) !

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    1. Hi Eha, there are lots of cheese spreads/logs/dips out there! And you're right - they're all pretty similar. Liptauer sounds delish; I should look that up. Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Cheese is my favorite and I love this! Happy holidays!

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    1. Hi justenoughsugar, this is a great recipe for cheese lovers! Happy holidays to you, and thanks for commenting.

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  20. Pimento cheese is really a blast from my past! My mother used to spread it over rye toast and then bake the toasts under the broiler for a few seconds. She also served it to us kids as an afternoon snack, spread thinly between slices of soft white Wonder bread! I have fond memories of stealing a finger full of the creamy jarred goodness, when my mother wasn't looking! I always got in big trouble for sticking my finger into the jar but it was worth the grounding. When mom entertained a big gathering she would served Jezebel( a tasty combination of horseradish and apricot jam) as an accompaniment to the pimento cheese spread. Now my mouth is watering! Thanks for sharing your recipe and provoking all these great food memories. Happy New year to you and yours!

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    1. Hi Rebecka, I'm happy to remind you of your childhood. Aren't food memories incredible? They can be so strong. Jezebel sounds pretty good. Happy New Year to you and yours, and thanks for commenting.

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  21. This would be perfect for a party like on New Year's Eve! I love the idea of adding jalapeno, and now I'm wondering why I never thought of that before. Happy early New Year!

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    1. Hi Lisa, pimento cheese is so much fun to play with! Jalapeno is wonderful in this, but just the plain version (with plenty of cayenne, please) is excellent. Happy New Year, and thanks for commenting.

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  22. I had never heard of pimento cheese till I started blogging...and now I'm dying for a taste! I think I'd be very happy using this for a grilled cheese :) Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Lizzy, it's fun all the new things one learns blogging, isn't it? ;-) Pimento Cheese is well worth having. It makes a superior grilled cheese sandwich! Happy New Year to you, and thanks for the comment.

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  23. Though I've never tried pimento cheese before, I have seen recipes for it. The difference here is that I know and trust you, John. I've "pinned" the recipe and this is a good candidate for a certain big football game that's looming off on the horizon. Thanks, John. I'm always on the look out for a new dish or two for that get-together. This one will do nicely.

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    1. Hi John, thanks for the vote of confidence, but most recipes for this dish are more or less the same. Just use good ingredients - and taste as you mix, as I know you do - and you'll come up with something delish. This will be a real hit at your Super Bowl party! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. This stuff is truly addicting. You take one bite and before you know it, you've devoured half the bowl. LOL

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    1. Hi Carolyn, this stuff is so enticing, isn't it? I know what you mean about half-emptying the bowl. (And alas, I rarely do things by halves.) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I am oddly fascinated by this...definitely on the list of things I've never made...but who knows. Stranger things have happened!

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    1. Hi Shut Up & Cook, this is one of those foods that isn't intuitive to lots of folks. But think about it for awhile, and the idea will grow on you. And when you taste it? Good stuff. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I've actually never tried this although I've heard about it (and seen it at the grocery store). I thought it was some crazy over processed food stuff but seeing it now it sounds great! I'll be giving it a try at my next get together!

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, unless you live in the south, I don't really recommend the grocery store stuff - it's not the best. Homemade is excellent, however, and well worth trying. Definitely good for a get together. Thanks for your comment.

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  27. Haha wow! That is some seriously pimped out cheese dip!

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    1. Hi Christine, it is indeed! And definitely worth the (minimal) effort. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. That looks like a delicious spread. Especially on a baguette! Perhaps toasted a little but in the oven?

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    1. Hi Ilan, toasting this in the oven on a baguette sounds like a wonderful idea! Definitely worth trying sometime. Thanks for the comment.

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  29. So fun, I live in the South and this certainly is quite a beloved treat! Yours looks amazon!d- from a transplanted Southern girl! :()

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    1. Hi Chris, this stuff is everywhere in the South! And no wonder - it's so delish. Glad this meets with your approval. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Living in the Southern US for 12 years now, I realized and learned so much about this simple spread and I saw so many recipes! Every family must have their own version. I never made my own, thanks to Publix :)
    I sure will give this recipe a try , I love dill pickle addition. I need a simple appetizer for New Year's anyway.
    My husband insists that he can taste the difference between preshredded and shredded block cheddar cheese and always wants me to buy the blocks and shred. Pretty much for every cheese. I sure can not taste the difference and I was worried if there was something wrong with my taste buds. Nice to hear the same from you!

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    1. Hi Ilke, I was pretty surprised that I couldn't tell the difference between the preshredded and the block cheese. And in something like Pimento Cheese, with the added mayo and cayenne? I find it hard to believe anyone can really tell the difference. Publix has pretty good Pimento Cheese - when we lived in Florida we'd often buy it. Though it's not as good as homemade. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I'll be sure to come back here closer to New Year's Eve! These appetizers look so yummy.. I think I'd just have to do a grilled cheese with this one:) I love the simplicity and the combination of flavors! xx

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    1. Hi Just a Smidgen, grilled cheese sounds excellent! ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  32. This reminds me of my Mom, she makes this regularly when I was younger. Love this recipe.
    Anyways Have a Prosperous New Year to you and your family!

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    1. Hi Raymund, I'm glad I brought back happy memories! Thanks for the greeting (and comment), and I hope you and yours have a Happy New Year too.

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  33. I could have some right now! :P

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    1. Hi Alex, we've finished this batch, but I'll probably make some more tomorrow for New Year's Eve! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. This brings back so many memories of my Grandmother...I have to make it tomorrow...it is on my top priority!!!! It caught my eye right away when I was looking for nice appetizers and ones that are easy to make for my post today...this one ROCKS!!!! sending you hugs and wishes for a wonderful New Year...I am sure it will be a tasty one!!! your newest follower!

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    1. Hi Andrea, welcome! This is such a good dish, isn't it? We finished off the first batch and will be making another one tomorrow. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  35. I would love to try making this at home. But what are pimentoes exactly? How do they look like? The recipe sounds great!

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    1. Hi Purabi, pimentos are just red bell peppers (the fully ripe green bell peppers) that have been skinned, and then jarred in a vinegar solution. You can easily substitute fresh red bell peppers. I always roast them to make the skin removal easier, but you can skip that step. I'd figure on maybe half a fresh pepper to 1/2 pound of cheese, although this is a flexible recipe - you can really use as much as you want. Thanks for the comment.

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  36. This is only good if you say it like they do in Knoxville. Pimenno cheez. :) It's a great sandwich!

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    1. Hi Maureen, ;-) That's similar to how they say it in Texas. And the spread does make a terrific sandwich. Thanks for the comment.

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  37. I grew having pimento cheese sandwiches at least once a week. I'll never grow tired of pimento cheese on a sandwich or as a dip.

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    1. Hi Karen, I prefer this as a dip, but I have to agree it makes a mighty fine sandwich (particularly when toasted). Thanks for the comment.

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  38. YUM!!
    I have never even heard of this dip but I am making it for New Years! Mr GG will fall in love with me all over again!!! He is a cheese fiend.
    I will be doing the roasted capsicum option and using homemade mayonnaise as our mayonnaise is thin and sweet. He loves jalapeno so I will throw in a few of them also.

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    1. Hi Julie, this is such a terrific recipe! I have some of this in the refrigerator right now. ;-) The jalapenos will be a nice addition. Thanks for the comment.

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