I'd like to say right up front that I love pimento cheese. Although I was born in New Jersey (if Princeton counts as New Jersey) I think I've always loved the quintessentially southern treat since I first encountered it on rubbery store-bought white bread made into crustless sandwiches when I was a little girl transplanted to Virginia. In the old days, one used to be able to buy "good" pimento cheese at the grocery store, which, I'm very sad to say, is no longer the case. I've made it a little game to look at the ingredients on containers of pimento cheese I've stumbled upon in recent years, and, frankly, have been horrified with some of the completely unacceptable things I've found listed. Believe me, cream cheese has no place in real pimento cheese.
This has meant that in recent years, if I get a hankering for pimento cheese it's going to have to be homemade. For some reason, the urge seems to strike me particularly as the summer comes on. Is it because when I see a frosty Jefferson cup of bourbon in Jeff's hand, there's only one true thing to accompany it? Is it because, once you've had a hamburger topped with pimento cheese, there's really no other way to love one, ever?
Sometimes it doesn't make sense to ask too many questions. Sometimes you just take action, and for me, and hopefully for you, making pimento cheese will become one of those knee-jerk activities.
Now the great news is, as far as I'm concerned, with pimento cheese, less is more. I don't think you want to muck it up with too many extraneous ingredients. For example, I'm not in the pro-olive camp, though I know some people are. What I do devoutly believe is, however, you've got to have top-notch ingredients, though they be few. The mayonnaise has only two options, either homemade or Hellman's "Real" mayonnaise--not low-fat or any other permutation, but the original. Secondly, I think you need real extra-sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese. And an aged one is preferable at that.
Once those things are in hand, as far as I'm concerned, it's relatively difficult for your plans to go awry. I don't like things to be of an overly smooth consistency, so I do not finely chop my pimentos. And I grate the cheese on the large side of the box grater, producing a fairly chunky spread. If you like it smoother, by all means knock yourself out.
All I know is, you can't lose with pimento cheese in your arsenal. You've got cocktail hour covered, killer sandwiches in the bag, and dreamy burgers up your sleeve. Do you think when Mies said, "less is more" he was thinking about pimento cheese? I don't know, but I sure am.
1/2 pound extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese
One 4-ounce jar pimento, drained, and, if you wish, finely chopped
1/2 cup Hellman's real mayonnaise, or homemade mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
Grate the cheese into a mixing bowl. Add the pimento and mix well. Add the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and Tabasco and, using a fork, stir and mash the mixture till blended and almost a chunky paste.
Serve mixture in a bowl with crackers or crostini as a canape.