While it’s hard to imagine anyone appreciating the heavenly combination of shredded cheese, mayo, and diced red pimentos as much as Southerners, pimento spread actually got its start in New York. That may sound like culinary heresy to some Southerners, but cream cheese came from the North, too. We wouldn’t be frosting our red velvet or hummingbird cake without it and those are definitely Southern delicacies. Cream cheese actually gave pimento cheese its start. New York farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese that evolved into cream cheese in the 1870s. Around the same time, Spain started sending canned red peppers or “pimiento” over to the United States. They soon caught on and became popular in kitchens across the country.
The two ingredients were finally brought together in 1908, in a Good Housekeeping recipe that called for cream cheese, mustard, chives, and minced pimentos. The combination of cream cheese and pimento was such a hit, it started to be mass produced, primarily in the South. Soon, Georgia farmers were trying to grow red peppers domestically, roasting them, canning them and sending out as many as 10 million cans of pimentos a year.
This recipe is a marriage of two beloved Southern foods, pimento cheese and cornbread. I think you'll really like it.
Pimento Cheese Cornbread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
¼ cup mayonnaise
2-ounce jar diced pimientos, drained
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 425º. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and mayonnaise. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and stir to combine. Stir in pimientos and cheddar.
Pour batter into prepared dish. Bake 25-30 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
Top with butter, if desired.
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