Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb

A northerner’s take on a recipe for pimento cheese, a southern staple, complete with pickled green garlic, pickled radishes, and pickled rhubarb.
Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
— Emily Dickinson

Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com
I’m watching the dappled sunlight come through the branches of our neighbors’ trees as I stand at the kitchen window scrubbing dried bits of this and that from the inside of the sink. Lene sits at the back patio. She’s painted a set of rocks to look like dragons and baby chicks—two things she’s decidedly “in” to lately. She used the same paint to create a fake wound that runs down her calf. She’s about to have her first experience with pimento cheese.

I imagine that if she creates a long-term memory of this moment, it will look something like this: green, hot, sweaty. Crisp bread, tangy cheese spread with a bit of heat, crunchy radishes and the distinct sweet-sour taste from the bits of pickled rhubarb. It will smell first and foremost of vinegar because the rhubarb will hit her nose first. If sound is a part of this memory, it will be her teeth crunching into the bread, the crackling first and then the snapping of the fresh vegetables second. The wind chime she made at arts camp will provide the background score.
Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com
If you are from the capital-S South, don’t keep scrolling. I know I’m doing it “wrong.” There is cream cheese, or there isn’t enough. I didn’t spread it on plain white bread, I used toasted sourdough (with Irish butter). I added dijon. I let my kid grate the cheese super fine. I blended it in the food processor, so it’s not as chunky as your mom’s pimento cheese that you grew up eating. I didn’t put hot sauce in, instead opting for a healthy dash of cayenne pepper. I am serving it with greens and pickled rhubarb. I like to dip radishes in it, the peppery bite of the radish playing against the creamy (and only moderately chunky) pimento spread. Bless my heart.

I don’t have any deep-rooted pimento cheese experience to draw on. I was in my early 20s when I first ate pimento cheese. It would be a few years later at Empire State South in Atlanta before I ate it again, which is why I put smoked paprika in my own. I’ve had it both with cream cheese and without that I’ve enjoyed. Since I like cream cheese as a rule, I put it in pimento cheese I make at home.
Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com
I watched a conversation unfold about the utter wrongness of cream cheese in pimento cheese this past week. People pointed to an article that traces its origins back to cream cheese and red peppers only. Others talked of their love of sriracha in pimento cheese. Pickled ramps (and bread and butter pickles) were considered unnecessary. But regardless of how anyone wanted their pimento cheese, what got to me was how passionate everyone was in defending their own experience.

It occurs to me that everyone wanted to turn a blind eye to facts and other opinions in favor of personal experiences. Food is so wrapped up in emotion and experience and memory. It’s this rightness, the need to have a right and a wrong way to eat a type of food or prepare a dish, that only causes discord. The way we throw away other people’s experiences and discount them because they are different from our own can be spread across the fabric of society (like chunky pimento cheese). It draws lines in the sand, forces a mentality of us versus them.

Sure, it’s just food. It’s pimento cheese. But when we care so deeply about the food we eat—when we are willing to take a stand about what we think is too high brow, what does and does not belong, what is just flat out wrong (never mind the history)—when we close ourselves off to tasting and experiencing someone else’s version of life, what will it mean when we’re talking about racism, discrimination, nepotism, misogyny, hatred, politics, religion?

We should be more open-minded as a society. We should welcome other interpretations while still celebrating our own. We should eat all the pimento cheese because it’s food, and who cares how anyone else likes it if we can make it the way we like it at home and enjoy it all the same?
Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com

Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb

 

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces grated sharp white cheddar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled and finely diced (jarred or fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cheddar, cream cheese, mayonnaise, diced roasted bell pepper (pimento), Dijon, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  2. For chunkier pimento cheese, use a coarser grated cheese and mix by hand. For creamier pimento cheese, blend in a stand mixer or food processor with the dough blade in place for 1-2 minutes or until desired consistency is reached
Recipe type: Appetizer
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 16 servings

 

Quick Pickled Rhubarb

 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups washed, trimmed, and diced rhubarb stalks
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Place the cleaned rhubarb in jars filled to the top (this will help keep all pieces submerged).
  2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water, apple cider vinegar, honey/sugar, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Pour the vinegar mix over the rhubarb. Cover and place in the refrigator at least four hours before serving.

Notes

To pickle green garlic, wash and trim whites (and greens, if desired, but this will make them spoil more quickly in the refrigerator) and place in jars. Pour pickling juice over the gree garlic. Allow to chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving. Get the recipe for pickled radishes on http://foodformyfamily.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#divERDetailsFoodforMyFamily.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 cups

Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb - Eat Seasonal
Follow along for Eat Seasonal and see what everyone is making for the month of June:

Chunky Citrus Guacamole by Foodie Crush
Cherry Rolls by Kitchen Confidante
French Green Lentil and Quinoa Salad by Letty’s Kitchen
Simply Strawberry Pie by Joy Food Sunshine
Greek Three Bean Salad by Flavor the Moments
Strawberry Lime Chopped Salad by Vintage Mixer
Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Bars by Floating Kitchen
Roasted Strawberry Yogurt Pops by Completely Delicious
Rhubarb & Orange Frangipane Galette by Simple Bites
Minty Sweet Pea Hummus by She Likes Food
Pimento Cheese with Pickled Green Garlic, Radishes, and Rhubarb recipe | FoodforMyFamily.com

Comments

  1. These are such pretty early Summer bites! I have been trying to use rhubarb in more savory applications this year. So I need to try this for sure! Gorgeous photos, friend!

  2. This spread looks delicious! The perfect way to enjoy a warm summer afternoon!

  3. It’s been forever since I’ve eaten pimento cheese — I think I’ve forgotten what it tastes like! Your version looks insanely delicious and I love that you added rhubarb!

  4. I love this for so many reasons, but most simply, because I love pimento cheese. And funny enough, I had no idea it was a “Southern thing” until I was much older, because growing up my mom made it…since no one else I knew in my NY neighborhood ate it, I assumed pimento cheese was a Filipino thing! Ha!
    So, I love how you’ve made this with some kick and my favorite rhubarb! Brilliant. I hope Lene loved it!

  5. Pimento cheese is a recipe I was never drawn to–until now. Yours sounds good! I’m also excited to try the pickled rhubarb and green garlic! Pinning

  6. How fun is this?!! I grew up with pimento cheese but this takes it to a whole new level!

  7. I love how you used rhubarb in this recipe! I’ve never had it in a savory recipe before but I could eat buckets of this cheese dip!

  8. Great recipe! Thanks

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