Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Which pimento cheese rules?


Certain choices are too personal to mess with: Religion, politics, and pimento cheese. A number of years ago, I did a pimento cheese tasting and I swore I'd never do it again. The pimento cheese you like is the one your mother made, and I never argue with a person's mother.


But never say never. I've been hearing about a couple of newcomers in Harris Teeter recently, Charlotte-based Augusta's and the cleverly named Palmetto Cheese from Pawley's Island. When co-worker Shannon Crisp stated ranting about her addiction to Palmetto, I thought it was time to give them a try.


I arranged a blind-tasting of Palmetto, Augusta's (both in the original or non-jalapeno form) and the venerable Ruth's Pimento Spread, made in Chester, S.C. Then I pulled together two avowed 'minter cheese addicts, Crisp and writer Olivia Fortson. As the person who covers parties, Fortson knows her way around a dip tray. We put out number-coded plates of all three, along with celery and crackers, and got to work.


All three of us choose the same favorite and the same second favorite. We also were able to identify the three correctly. The spreads were that different in taste, texture and appearance.


The unanimous favorite: Palmetto Cheese. Besides having a little peppery kick, the shredded-cheese texture impressed us all. That texture made it seem the closest to homemade. "It tastes like my mom made it in her kitchen," said Crisp. "I want to grab a recipe and make things with that."


A close second: Augusta's. The texture, we all agreed, was too smooth and creamy. But we all liked the flavor, which was a little sharper with a bit more bite. It would make the best party dip, especially for spreading on celery sticks.


Third place: Ruth's, which was declared "too orange and too sweet," with a flavor that reminded us of Kraft Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise. But Ruth's wasn't necessarily a loser. Crisp noted that it was the kind of pimento cheese she grew up with, and she knows for a fact "it makes the best grilled pimento cheese sandwich."


If you still have a beach-house week ahead of you, I'd recommend packing along a tub of both Pawley's and Augusta's. Take plenty of crackers and do your own tasting.

56 comments:

Hounds4HeroesFounder said...

Yep, Palmetto cheese is the best, in my opinion. I had heard Ruth's was good but I found it to be too sweet.

Anonymous said...

the best is homemade, and literally only takes 5 minutes to make. you can find recipes all over the internet.

Anonymous said...

I have been an Augusta pimento cheese fan for a while now, just finishing up a container at lunch today. I look forward to trying out the Palmetto next time I shop. Thanks for the heads up in the "pimento cheese wars".

David G said...

I'll have to try them both. I found Ruth's too sweet as well. Harris Teeter's own pimento cheese is good, especially the pepper-jack one (blasphemy, I know). Any idea if all HT's will carry this or just the flagship stores (Southpark etc)?

Anonymous said...

The best is the one I make, using freshly grated extra sharp cheddar, a little bit of pepperjack, a little bit of Frank''s hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. A slight kick to it but delicious. The fresh grated cheese makes a world of difference.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Pepperjack was made popular by the famous Pimento at the Penguin, the recipe of which was on the Food Network.

Kelly said...

the only thing my roommate eats is PALMETTO CHEESE.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Go to Harpers (either Southpark or Carolina Place) and try their Pimento cheese. Nothing compares.

Anonymous said...

How can this be a real contest when you don't even include Something Classic's pimento cheese? I would have expected more thorough research on such a controversial subject.

Anonymous said...

No Stan's in the competition? Ruth's is nasty.

Anonymous said...

Tried Palmetto a few weeks ago in Charleston....AWESOME! But my all time favorite is Stan's. Can't beat it. Ruth's? Ugh. Never liked it.

Cheri Wiles said...

Wow! Does it ever surprise you which of your columns evokes the most controversy? I've got to say, I usually tell people I don't like pimento cheese -- which really means I don't like MOST pimento cheese. It's super easy to make your own, though. And if you're eating out, the version at Just Fresh is superior. They recommend it on their cranberry nut bread, which sounds bizarre, but is oh-so-tasty. The tang and crunch from the bread plays beautifully with thick creamy spread. Dang. Now I'm making myself hungry.

Anonymous said...

I was forced to learn how to make my own after moving to the west coast- pimento cheese simply doesn't exist west of the Mississippi river.

It really is incredibly simple to make. A pack of shredded cheddar cheese, some mayo, and a jar of pimientos (which are just chopped up pickled red bell peppers)

Just make sure you use Duke's mayo, as it is the only national brand that does not contain sugar.

If you use miracle whip, the result will be nasty.

Anonymous said...

as mentioned earlier. Stan's is the only commercial one worth eating. Ruth's is simply inedible. My yankee wife not knowing the difference bought that brand and no one could eat it. The main differentiator in pimento cheese is whether to use american (like Stan's and my mother) or cheddar (like most gourmet recipes.)

Oh and unless it has changed, Harris teeter's deli uses Stan's

wiley said...

...you obviously haven't had mine

=o)

Anonymous said...

If you're in Charleston, don't waste your time at a grocer, head to Magnolia's. THAT is the best pimento cheese I've ever eaten, hands down.

Matters of Style said...

Something Classic's spicy pimento cheese so so good! Only my grandmother's homemade is better. I like pimento cheese to be very dry. I despise Ruth's.

Air-N Shaw said...

Stan's is the best and I believe you can only get it in North Carolina and possibly only at Harris Teeter. Food Lion and Walmart do not carry it. I have it every morning for breakfast on a piece of toast. Nothing like it!!!

I hate to tell the guy who said, "Harris Teeter's own pimento cheese is good...", but I used to buy the Harris Teeter packaged pimento cheese, until I was informed it was actually Stan's!!

kidzplay9 said...

Try "Stan's" pimento cheese...slightly off of the subject. Here in sunny Charleston, at the Hometown Teeter, they have Robert's chicken salad from Wrightsville Bch...it's in the same section as the pimento cheese, hummus etc...gotta try it, it's rediculously good!

Kathleen Purvis said...

Kidz, do you know if that's made by the Roberts grocery store on Wrightsville? Also, is Burbage's still a good place for pimento cheese in Charleston? I've sat by the sea wall with a pimento cheese sandwich from Burbages on many occasions.

David G said...

Thanks for the tip (HT = Stan's). Had no clue since it comes in a plain clear plastic container with the deli sticker on it.

Anonymous said...

The Fresh Market 'minnow cheese' is yummy, regular, jalapeno and reduced fat!

Anonymous said...

The best pimento cheese sandwich I've ever had comes from The Common House on Central Ave. Many of my friends agree-- one even told me she had dreams about it!

kidzplay9 said...

Kathleen, I just found Robert's Famous Chicken Salad on Facebook...apparently it is from Robert's Market in WB...and yes, Burbage's is still alive and kicking! I once lived several blocks away from Burbage's for 3 years and unfortunately never indulged in a Pimento Cheese experience...

Anonymous said...

I recently made a trip to Smith's Drugs in Forest City for their pimento cheese because of their story in Our State. It was very good but Stan's is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, you're roommate obviously has great taste

Anonymous said...

In the next PC battle, I would suggest getting a sample, preferrably the hot PC, from Jackson's Kitchen in Clover, SC. But I am going to try the brands you mentioned. thanks

Sharon said...

I had some at the Myers Park Country Club that was really great. I heard they have a lady who makes it for them. Zoe's Kitchen in Ballantyne is good also and I bought some wonderful PC at a Christmas craft fair. I think it was called Jim's.

Sharon said...
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Anonymous said...

1) My mother's is simply the best.

2) For those in the Concord-Kannapolis area, DePompa's has fantastic pimento cheese. It is good, dry and sharp.

kyle said...

Cajun Yard Dog at the Arboreteum has great cajun pimento cheese. Spicey, chunky, it is good!

discourser said...

Andrew Blair's on Montford has a good pimento cheese. I also like the pepper jack at HT, which I guess is really Stan's. But homemade is always the best.

Want a hybrid recipe? No mayo invovled. This is another one of mine that people say "eeewwww" until they taste it!

Beer Cheese

Put sharp cheddar cheese in the food processor. While it's running, add beer until it gets to a smooth spreadable consistency. Add whatever pepper/hot stuff on hand. It can be Frank's, roasted red peppers with a dash of cayenne for heat, dried red peppers, a little bit of jalapeno (I am a "what's in the cupboard" type of cook). Process some more. If you want chunks, stir in some shredded cheddar. Serve it with regular soda crackers.

I never have leftovers whenever I take it to a party, especially a Super Bowl party!

Anonymous said...

The Fresh Markets is the mack daddy !!!!

Anonymous said...

Classic southern pimento cheese is NOT spicy---so please leave out the jalapenos, garlic, and anything else that gives it a "kick." It's heresy to those of us who grew up on (and still crave) the real thing. Stan's has the old time flavor. Also liked Penny's at Dean & Deluca.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend the Pimento Cheese Fritters at Hotel Charlotte restaurant. My boyfriend and I tried them last week and I am now officially addicted. I don't know how they make them - but fried up pimento cheese balls are just too yummy!!

Anonymous said...

Augusta's is hands down the freshest and tastiest in my humble opinion. Great for sandwiches, celery, bread sticks or chips.
Augusta's got skills!

Anonymous said...

Gross!

Anonymous said...

I cant put down Something Classic's pimento cheese. Its off the charts good. Its also available at the small Myers Park Teeter.

I buy one every week for sandwiches and Wheat Thins.

Anonymous said...

Something Classic's Spicy Pimento cheese is the best... closest thing to homemade I've ever bought. (And I've tried the others mentioned in this article.)

Anonymous said...

The world's best mento cheese is found in Augusta, but it is not "Augusta's". You can only get it once a year, in April, at The Masters!

Anonymous said...

I've had every pimento cheese listed by comments, even Smith's Drugs,(my grandparents lived in Forest City)--but the best I have ever had is at Foxcroft Hills pool. I don't know what she puts in it but IT is the best--even above Magnolias and Palmento's-

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Um, I LOVE this post, because I LOVE pimento cheese! Would you believe I've only ever bought Ruth's? Have to give others a shot. You've given me a craving...

Pimento cheese on some stark white bread is the stuff of dreams ;)

Anonymous said...

Have not tried Palmetto cheese as yet but Stan's and Sedgefield's are great pimento cheese brands. I used to be able to find Sedgefeld's at Harris Teeter but did not find it this summer. I think Food Lion carries it. Currently live in South Korea ... no pimento cheese here just kimchi!

K. Green said...

But, as I said, you haven't tried my wife's homemade pimento cheese. Store bought may be good but She's got'em all beat....by a long shot.

Kimbrell said...

I discovered Palmetto Cheese last year in SC. I agree it is the best by far.
You've probably done it before, but I wish you'd publish some pimento cheese recipes. My mother didn't make it. I grew up on the house brand from Winn Dixie.

Anonymous said...

Kimbrell...pimento cheese is just like slaw, ckn salad, potato salad, etc. It's basically cheese salad. You shred cheese and mix with enough Dukes to hold it together. Then add pimentos, salt pepper to taste. Going off a recipe for these items seems like cheating. They were meant for eyeballing.

MellowRoast said...

Classic pimento cheese can be either spicy or not. Give us a break.

JFG Mayo Rules said...

Hogwash. Preparing from a recipe isn't cheating at all. I spent years perfecting my pimento cheese recipe and want it to taste consistently the same. So what's so bad about that?

Mr. Haney said...

Palmetto is loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Have you tried Miss Bonnie's and Trader Joe's?

Anonymous said...

Try the pimento cheese at Fincastles in Greensboro, NC. It is absolutely the best ever. They serve it on fried green tomatoes and their delta burger. It is so yummy, I buy a container every time I eat there.

Amateur Cook said...
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Anonymous said...

RUTH'S IS THE WORSE PIMENTO CHEESE I HAVE EVER TASTED. ANYONE THAT EATS THIS PRODUCT HAS NEVER TASTED A DECENT PIMENTO CHEESE TO COMPARE IT TO!

Anonymous said...

Where can you buy palmetto cheese?

Kathleen Purvis said...

It's carried at most of the supermarkets in this region, including Harris Teeter. I also see it often at Costco.