Southern comfort

September 13,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We've been in North Carolina nine years now, and the place has slowly grown on me, even if the summer climate has not. It did take several years, though, for me to fully appreciate our lives here. And while I'll always consider myself more of a cold-climate, New England-y, northern sort of person, I think I'm at peace with where we are now. There are lots and lots of benefits to where we live, and we've slowly built a good life for ourselves, and are lucky to be surrounded by good friends and neighbors. This weekend we visited with some of those good friends and, instructed by the hostess to bring a dip of sorts, I decided to bring my own pimento cheese spread. I had never ever heard of pimento cheese spread until we moved to North Carolina. Growing up, I had sampled lots of spreads: olive paste (yum!), eggplant spread, hummus, even fish egg paste (it's a Greek thing). But I had never, ever heard of pimento cheese spread until the day my office-mate and friend brought me a tupperware container of her mother's home made cheese spread. "Try this," she said, handing me a small stack of crackers. I was smitten. I love cheese, and the sharp tang of the cheddar and Colby combined with the creaminess of the sour cream and the mayonnaise was an addictive combination. And the beauty of pimento cheese is that it's not just a dip! It makes a wonderful spread for wraps, combined with a layer of fresh spinach or Romaine lettuce leaves and sliced cucumbers, or as a simple filling for a sandwich. You can also, as I did one day this summer, stuff jalapenos with it and roast them on the grill (these were HOT--too hot for my taste buds, but I left too many seeds inside). You can buy pimento cheese at any grocery store around these parts, but the home made spread is not only simple to make, but better tasting then all those store bought tubs filled with their bright orange paste. Next time you need a quick spread for a gathering, or for fall football watching, or as a weekly sandwich-filler, give this a try! Homemade Pimento Cheese *This is my own recipe, adapted from various recipes I browsed through when I first heard about pimento cheese spread. I have portions listed below, but I always make this by eye-balling the ingredients and I always stray from the exact measurements. It's a forgiving recipe--remember, you're going for the texture, rather than exact amounts of any one ingredient. 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese ½ pound Colby cheese 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste) 1-2 tablespoons chopped, jarred jalapeno peppers, with a little juice mixed in 1/4 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives 4-ounce jar of pimentos - drained ¼ cup mayonnaise ¼ cup sour cream Grate all the cheese by hand. This might seem cumbersome, and will result in a veritable mountain of cheese, but the packaged pre-shredded cheese is coated with something that will keep your pimento cheese spread for melding together in its wonderful, signature way. Chop the pimentos, if you are using them whole. Mix the grated cheese, pimentos and sour cream. Add more sour cream and mayonnaise a tablespoon at a time if your mixture is too dry and clumpy. When it's mixed together, place in the refrigerator for at least one hour to set. DSCF6105