Recipe for Red Pimento Cheese
Home cooking and bringing back an American main street
Locals go to the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery in Water Valley, Mississippi, for its Skillet Biscuits and Sausage Gravy breakfasts, made-to-order chicken salad and spicy Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese sandwiches, and daily specials like Shrimp and Grits that are as good as momma made. The B.T.C.’s freezers are stocked with take-home Southern Yellow Squash Casseroles and its counter is piled high with sweets like Peach Fried Pies as well as seasonal produce, local milk, and freshly baked bread.
“Be the Change” has always been the store’s motto, and that’s just what it has done. What started as a place to meet and eat is now so much more, as the grocery has become the heart of a now-bustling country town. The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook shares 120 of the store’s best recipes, giving home cooks everywhere a taste of the food that brought a community together, sparking friendships, reviving traditions, and revitalizing an American Main Street.
Pimento cheese deserves a book of its own in the South. Just about every-body down here grew up eating it. There are mass-produced tubs in the grocery stores (skip those) and every lady has her own recipe. Cora’s mother puts sweet pickle and egg in hers. Coulter uses red bell peppers. As for Dixie, she actually disliked it as a child. Miss Vetra filled celery sticks and made tea sandwiches with it for church functions, and Dixie always gave it a pass.
Decades later, with mature taste buds, Dixie was making her grand-mother’s traditional pimento at home—and enjoying it. This recipe employs no exotic additions. Dixie recommends mixing it with your hands to get it to the perfect texture. It is wonderful on crackers and makes a fantastic sand-wich, whether warm, cold, with bacon, with chicken breast and coleslaw and pickles, grilled, broiled, on toasted bread, soft bread, or croissant. There may indeed be no wrong way to eat pimento cheese.
Kagan and I were recently at one of Yalo’s art openings, crammed into its former barbershop space with dozens of other people, most of whom we knew. We were in the far back, where Coulter and Megan keep their own works and works-in-progress, and Kagan was spreading pimento cheese onto crackers and eating them in the company of Coulter’s circus animal series (a bear balanced on a ball gazed at us—somewhat hungrily). Kagan took a big bite and then said around a mouthful, “If anyone had told me ten years ago I’d be at an art show in Mississippi eating pimento cheese and liking it, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Then he left me in the company of the bear to search for boiled peanuts.
1 pound red rind hoop cheese, shredded (4 cups)
½ cup chopped pimientos
½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
⅛ teaspoon sweet paprika
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
Pinch of sugar
In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, pimientos, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, granulated onion, granulated garlic, mustard, paprika, white pepper, and sugar. Using your hands, mix thoroughly until creamy. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.The pimento cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days.