Isn't Pimento Cheese Naturally Gluten Free?
What? Why make pimento cheese gluten free? Isn't is already gluten free. If you read the labels, they might say gluten free, but before the labeling laws, I have been painfully glutened with "gluten free" pimento cheese. The label might say gluten free or not mention any type of gluten in the ingredients but it may have been manufactured on a line where a product with gluten has been produced. Some of the companies making pimento cheese state that some of their suppliers for their company cannot meet the gluten free standards. I always do some research on a product before I buy it, especially if there is no mention of gluten. Same with pimento cheese.
Origin of Pimento Cheese
I found it a surprise when I read that pimento cheese wasn't orginally a southern "thing" -- connect to that website to read about it. That might explain why Mama's pimento cheese wasn't -- southern. She didn't live here in the south until she was in her late 20's. She used Miracle Whip rather than mayonnaise in her pimento cheese. Isn't that considered a sin in the south? I think most southerners who want an outstanding product use Duke's or Hellmann's mayonnaise. If they don't, they may lie about not using it. And even though homemade might be great, many sourthern cooks would say "it ain't southern made with Miracle Whip".
There are many different recipes for pimento cheese connoisseurs. Some like only sharp cheddar cheese; others, like a blend of several cheeses. Some like to use the chunky pimento and some like it diced or shredded. Some like their finished pimento cheese chunky and others like theirs really creamy.
Wright Bryan from NPR has this recipe. It seems to be slightly chunky. Bobby Deen's pimento cheese recipe lists several cheeses and is combined with an electric mixer; so, I'm assuming it is very creamy.
You might find Wallace's thesis on Pimento Cheese interesting. She had done, what I consider, a nice history on Pimento Cheese in North Carolina.
An article by Robert Moss on the website "Serious Eats" states that pimento cheese has its origin in the state of New York and gradually migrated to the South. It may have been because most of the cherry peppers were grown in South Carolina and Georgia. In the northern states, pimento cheese was made using cream cheese. After World War II, pimento cheese became less popular in the north. The South took the production to heart and began making it. Because it was cheaper to make with hoop cheese, the southern states used hoop cheese rather than cream cheese.
Kraft still makes pimento cheese using their Philadelphia brand of cream cheese. It can be found in a 5oz glass jar and is between $1.79 to almost $4, depending on where you buy it. I so remember Mama buying it as a treat in the 40's and 50's. We drank orange juice out of Kraft pimento cheese glasses.
Some Southern Pimento Cheese Brands
Palmetto Cheese, is a wonderful gluten free pimento cheese made in South Carolina but isn't always easy to find. It is gluten free and comes in a couple of flavors. It is shipped to many states. Some of the other companies in North Carolina have a great taste but have gluten.
I still have not found the reason for gluten being in pimento cheese, unless to thicken it. The Star's company (made in Burlington, NC) makes macaroni salad and chicken & dumplings so there may be a contamination issue. Ruth's Pimento Cheese (made in Charlotte, NC) states, on the container, that it is processed where there is wheat.
Stan's Pimento Cheese (made in Burlington, NC) is reviewed as being very good. I do not know whether it is gluten free. Research did not lead me to any information about having gluten or being gluten free.
When I was shopping in the winter for pimento cheese at Trader Joe's, I couldn't find it. I was told by the "sign person" that it was a seasonal product and they didn't carry it this season. Trader Joe's -- you are in the South. Pimento cheese is not a seasonal item in The South. On a cold day, soup and a pimento cheese sandwich are comforting.
What to do with Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is good on bacon burgers, on celery sticks, on crackers and in deviled eggs. It is great on toasted bread. There is a recipe that my children liked. They probably haven't had that open-faced pimento cheese sandwich in 20 years. A beaten egg is combined with pimento cheese made with 8oz of cheddar cheese. The pimento cheese is spread thickly on slices of bread. Add uncooked chopped bacon on top of the pimento cheese and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. The egg makes the pimento cheese puff up. Delicious!
Ever had pimento cheese on a baked potato? There are several more ideas for using pimento cheese on this Southern Living website.
If you haven't seen The Pimento Cheese Cake from Our State Magazine, then you might want to check out the recipe. The same magazine has a wonderful pimento cheese sandwich recipe.
Linda's Gluten Free Pimento Cheese
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 4oz jar diced pimento, drained
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 8oz block extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese, finely shredded
- 1 8oz block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon pickle juice
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- hot sauce, to taste (optional)
- 1. Whisk or mix the mayonnaise and cream cheese until thoroughly blended.
- 2. Grate one block of cheese with regular size holes. Grate the other block finely. (The cheeses can be cut into cubes and processored in a processor until the size of small peas.)
- 3. Mix together the mayonnaise mixture and cheese.
- 4. Add remaining ingredients to the cheese mixture and combine thoroughly.
- 5. Taste and adjust as you see fit. Chill in refrigerator.
Other cheeses that can be used or substituted are mild cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, Colby cheese or any other cheese you like.
Pimentos are roasted cherry peppers. You can roast and chop your own peppers, if wanted.
Rather than use hot sauce, paprika and/or cayenne pepper can be used.
"From Scientific Cuisine to Southern Icon: The Real History of Pimento Cheese." From Scientific Cuisine to Southern Icon: The Real History of Pimento Cheese. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/history-southern-food-pimento-cheese.html>.
"Have Questions About the Pimento Cheese with Soul?" Have Questions About Palmetto Cheese Pimento Cheese with Soul? N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.pimentocheese.com/havequestions.php>.
"Made In The Triad: "The Original Stan's Pimento Cheese" | Digtriad.com." Digtriad.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://origin.digtriad.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=147901>.
"Pimento Cheese." Our State Magazine. N.p., 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.ourstate.com/pimento-cheese/>.
"Taste of the South: Pimiento Cheese." Southern Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.southernliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/pimiento-cheese-recipes>.
"13 Ways with Pimiento Cheese." Southern Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.southernliving.com/food/how-to/pimiento-cheese-recipes>.
Wallace, Emily E. "It Was There for Work: Pimento Cheese in the Carolina Piedmont." Thesis. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010. Print. <https://www.southernfoodways.org/assets/2013/06/WallacePimentoCheese.pdf>
Disclosure statement: I have not received compensation for any products mentioned or used in this post.