Feb 6th 2017

Housemade Pimento Cheese: Eat Well, Do Good

south end pimento dip

Eat Well, Do Good

When Formaggio Kitchen South End owner Valerie Gurdal came up with the idea of dedicating sales of a single, popular product to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, our pimento cheese, a comfort food and a family recipe, seemed like the perfect fit. Valerie grew up in the South, and she fondly remembers Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s house where they always had pimento cheese with crisp slices of raw green pepper and celery.

Valerie says: “We feel like we need to do something. We’re told to call our elected officials to voice our concerns, but here in MA we’re lucky to have elected officials who largely share our views on women’s rights and immigration issues. These causes are important to us, and this is a way we feel we can make a difference.”

When they heard about this pimento project, The Cellars at Jasper Hill offered to donate cheddar for the making of the pimento cheese, making the profits we can donate even greater!

If you’ve never tried it, stop in to get your first taste of the wonder that is pimento cheese. If you’re a misplaced Southerner, come in to reminisce about your childhood snacks. If you're an out-of-towner, try our recipes at home.

The History of our Pimento Cheese Recipe

When I was in third grade my family packed up and moved from New Jersey to Durham, North Carolina. Third grade is a time in your life when you’re paying particular attention to what’s in other kids’ lunchboxes, and in my Durham county elementary school I saw something in my classmate’s lunchboxes that I’d never seen before: pimento cheese sandwiches. A practically perfect kid’s food, classic pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread have everything a Southern child could want: protein-packed cheese, a hint of sweet red pepper, a ton of mayonnaise, and nothing green. Some parents made their pimento cheese from scratch, but most bought it in pre-packed pint tubs from the local Food Lion or Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

When my mom married into a respectable Southern family, I learned that pimento cheese wasn’t just kid food after all. My new, genteel South Carolina-raised grandmother Lavinia (who lived in an antebellum plantation house) served pimento cheese to guests in a little silver dish with Ritz crackers and celery sticks. Her pimento cheese was so good, it was hard to save room for for the next courses of brunswick stew, ham, butter beans, and coconut cake. My mother Anita adapted Lavinia’s recipe slightly, and it has since become a family specialty, requested at every family gathering as well as coffee hour at church. The morning of my wedding, with the help of numerous aunts, my mother and I made hundreds of tiny pimento cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off and kept them from drying out by covering them with damp tea towels until the guests gobbled them up in record time at the reception.

For everyday snacking we eat our pimento cheese with crackers, on biscuits, on baguette slices, on pretzels, on tortilla chips, in sandwiches with eggs, ham, and pickles, or even on a BLT. It makes beautiful little tea sandwiches to serve alongside bourbon cocktails or champagne. Our pickled okra is even tastier when it’s stuffed with pimento cheese (especially if you batter & fry it after stuffing!).

Since we started selling my mother’s pimento cheese at Formaggio Kitchen South End we’ve sold over 2,000 pounds. Many a relocated Southerner has expressed their surprise and appreciation upon finding our refrigerator shelf stocked with pimento cheese, and some have even declared it to be “better than mom’s” - the ultimate compliment.

Formaggio Kitchen South End Pimento Cheese

This is our recipe, courtesy of Anita Vann, and adapted from the recipe of Lavinia Sullivan Vann of Murfreesboro, North Carolina.

south end pimento cheese

  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 lb (8oz) Cheddar cheese, sharp but not too aged, grated
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's or Duke’s)
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste
  • Cream or milk if needed

Buzz the roasted red peppers in a food processor until finely minced, and add to cheese in a large bowl. Mix in mayo, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. If it seems too thick add a little cream or milk (up to 3 tablespoons) to soften. You want it to be spreadable, but still thick.

Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge Pimento Cheese

Our fellow cheesemongers at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge have their own version that they make on the other side of the river. Here is their recipe, adapted from various recipes including Julia Reed’s version.

cambridge pimento dip

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Duke’s)
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup roasted pimentos, diced
  • ½ tsp Tabasco
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions (if desired)

Mix softened cream cheese and mayonnaise in food processor until well blended. Add to shredded cheese in a mixing bowl and combine well. Add pimentos and Tabasco and mix until incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in scallions if desired.

Share your Support

For the entire 2017 calendar year, all profits from our Housemade Pimento Cheese at either store will be donated in full to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. This means that you can do your part to support and protect everyone's health and civil liberties by eating well and enjoying delicious Pimento Cheese with friends and family. Share your story and photos with us on social media by tagging us (@formaggiokitchen or @formaggiosouthend) and include the hashtag #eatwelldogood.

Now you can grab a tub of pimento cheese and feel good about scarfing down the whole thing. After all, it’s for a noble cause!

Author Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and Wine Buyer at Formaggio South End.