Classic Southern Cheese Straws
Serves 15 to 20
Cooks in 50 minutes
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces Vermont sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Duke's mayonnaise
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon grated Vidalia onion (see note)
1 tablespoon diced pickled jalapeño pepper, plus additional pickled jalapeño pepper juice
Dash cayenne pepper, if desired
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper (see note)
Grate the cheese and set it aside. You should have 3 cups extra-sharp cheddar and 1 cup Vermont cheddar, for about 4 cups of cheese in total. Place the mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave if needed so that it is easily spreadable. Add it to the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth.
Add the onion, jalapeño pepper, a dash of jalapeño pepper juice, and cayenne and black pepper. Stir to combine. Fold in the roasted red pepper, followed by the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning, and add more mayonnaise or jalapeño pepper juice as needed to make the pimento cheese spreadable. Refrigerate before serving.
Grate the cheese and set it aside. You should have 3 cups extra-sharp cheddar and 1 cup Vermont cheddar, for about 4 cups of cheese in total.
Place the mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave if needed so that it is easily spreadable. Add it to the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth.
This recipe accompanies a story on the history of pimento cheese in the South written by Anne Byrn, the former Atlanta Journal-Constitution food editor and New York Times bestselling author.
Once refrigerated, this pimento cheese will firm up. It develops in flavor overnight, so, if possible, make it a day ahead. Add as much onion as you like. You can finely grate the onion, or you can coarsely grate it for more texture.
Julie roasts two large red bell peppers on her own but said she’ll cheat and buy already roasted red peppers (not pimentos) when she's short on time. Roasting red peppers is a bit messy, but it can be done by cutting the red bell peppers in half and placing them cut-side down on a baking pan. Run them under a broiler until the skin blackens, then cool the peppers, remove their blackened skin, stem and seeds, and dice them. It isn't a pimento, but it's still pretty close. You can use as much as you'd like.
No salt is needed with the amount of salt in the cheese and pickled jalapeño peppers.
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