“Juicy tomatoes and pimiento cheese are dreamy together. Especially when they’re in bite-size form.” – Denise Gee, Porch Parties
If I’m being honest, my memories of pimiento cheese are not fond. The words alone make me envision those store-bought, orange-colored round tubs that my grandma kept faithfully on the second shelf of the refrigerator growing up, at eye level next to the sweet tea. I will never forget her spreading that unappetizing orange substance between two pieces of white bread. Fortunately, however, making pimento cheese at home takes on a whole new meaning. This Southern classic is really nothing more than a combination of garden-fresh vegetables and delicious cheeses bound by mayonnaise and seasoned to taste. It’s really quite versatile–spread it on crackers, use it to top off your hamburger or in this case, fill up plump cherry tomatoes.
This recipe was inspired by Porch Parties, a fantastic entertaining book I picked up on St. Simons Island. With only a few ingredients, the most time-consuming part about it is slicing the tomatoes and removing the pulp. You’ll need a small onion, 3 fresh garlic cloves, some jalapeno peppers, cherry tomatoes and of course a 7 ounce jar of sliced pimientos. As for the cheese, you’ll use a 1/2 pound of yellow mild cheddar and 1/2 pound of white sharp cheddar, shredded. The mixture is then seasoned with white pepper and held together with a cup of mayonnaise.
A pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of a large, red, heart-shaped chili pepper that’s sweet, succulent and more aromatic than the red bell pepper. In my grocery store, they were located on the international aisle with the salsa, not on the aisle with the pickles and olives, like you might think.
Slice off the stems of your cherry tomatoes, then with a melon baller, scoop out the pulp. You’ll need about 24 tomatoes.
While the tomatoes drain on paper towels, remove the seeds and the veins from your jalapeno peppers, de-skin the onion and hull your garlic cloves. Quarter the onion to help your food processor out, throw everything in and give it a whirl…
They smell really good all diced up! Drain the vegetable mixture to get rid of the natural water from the peppers and onions. This will help your mixture to be less runny.
Meanwhile, shred up your cheeses.
Combine the drained pimientos and the chopped vegetables with the cheese. Then add in your mayonnaise. The recipe called for 1 cup, but in hindsight, I would’ve only added about half. I ended up adding more cheese to balance things out. I am not a fan of mayonnaise so, if you’re like me–there’s good news! You can’t taste it. The mayonnaise really just serves as a binder, the taste is very subtle. Season generously with white pepper and a little salt.
Put about a teaspoon of the mixture in each cherry tomato halve, then top them off with slivered jalapeno peppers. They make such pretty, colorful bites and are fun to serve.
Be sure to try the spread on crackers too.
The jalapeno-pimiento cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes are sweet with a little heat and the flavor of the sharp cheese is a nice bite. On the next go ’round, I’ll make just a few tweaks: include less mayo, cut back on the onion, include more cheese–add Wickles.
What’s your take on pimiento cheese? If you’ve never made it at home, give it a chance!