Wednesday, March 17, 2010

White Trash Motherlode: Pimiento Cheese Spread

Some of you readers know that I spent many of my formative years in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was a bleak and frigid landscape, but we had some hoo-boy interesting neighbors. The same neighbors I posted about here happened to give us a family code-word/phrase unique to just us. You have those, don't you? Little sayings that pop out of your mouth, things you've heard since you were a child...things that make no sense to anyone else?

Or are we bigger wierdos than I thought?

Anyways, our code-phrase was, "Let me guess--Emil Schraeder did it, didn't he?"


My sister's best friend Lisa had money. Well, let me correct that. Lisa's family had more money than we did, which now that I think of it, probably wasn't very hard.

Anyways, Lisa's mother, Barb, was quite progressive and liberated. She militantly refused to wear a bra and refused to vacuum and sent her husband's work shirts to the dry cleaners. Believe me, such behavior was, in my eyes, downright exotic.

One afternoon, as Barb was hanging up the freshly dry-cleaned work shirts, she noticed one that she didn't recognize. Sure enough, the shirt was quite a bit larger than her husband's size. Upon further examination, she discovered a homemade tag on the inside, emblazoned with the name: Emil Schraeder.

An odd name, don't you think? I mean, even for Scandinavian-heavy North Dakota in the early 70's, this was a goofy-ass name.

Barb returned the shirt to the dry cleaner, only to get a puzzled look and a shake of the head.

"We don't have any customer named Emil Schraeder, lady. Never heard that name in my life."

Emil Schraeder:Man of Mystery.

From then on, whenever something in the Norby household went missing or was mysteriously broken, Lisa and her brothers would insist that they were not culpable.

"Emil Schraeder must have done it," they said, grinning.

Naturally, my sister and I thought this was genius.

So Emil Schraeder ended up haunting not just one, but two houses.

I'm going somewhere with this, I swear...

Growing up, my father had an addiction to a savory crocked-cheese-spread that he could only get in Fargo. Whenever he had business in Fargo, he picked up a jar or two of this delicious little foodstuff.

He'd reverently crack open the jar, grab a knife and slather the orange concoction on crackers or stalks of celery, sighing in satisfaction. The stuff was delectable.

Alas, my father was (and still is) notoriously stingy about sharing "his" food. Daddy is the only person I know who will go to a Chinese restaurant and refuse to allow a scrap of his entree to pass anyone else's lips. His food is his food.

Thus was his attitude towards his Crack Cheese. He guarded it like a junkyard dog.

But Crack Cheese was delicious...

So we sneaked, pilfered, pillaged. Greasy little fingers would leave smears on the refrigerator door, and when my father saw the streaks of cheesy evidence, he would bellow, "Who's been into my cheese?"

Emil Schraeder, who else?

To this day, I love savory cheese spread, although my tastes have advanced to spicier fare than the Crack Cheese of yore. My cheesy bliss? Pimiento-Jalapeno cheese spread from Whole Foods. I love the stuff. Give me a toasted English muffin, topped with that spread and a slice of fresh tomato, and I'm a satisfied woman.

Problem is, as much as I love my Whole Foods snack, it doesn't lovva my ass. Pimiento cheese spread usually contains mayonnaise or butter or God forbid, both. Cheese+Mayonnaise+Butter=Backside Suicide.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across a lightened recipe for pimiento cheese spread in Eating Well magazine. I made a batch, stirred in some finely diced jalapeno peppers, and was in snack heaven.

Eating Well Pimiento Cheese
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups reduced-fat Cheddar cheese**
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise (do not use fat-free)
1 (4 oz.) jar sliced pimientos, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons minced scallions or shallot
hot sauce to taste (or if you are like me, 1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve with crackers or crudites.

**Eating Well magazine is VERY, very fussy about the cheese used in the spread. They know their stuff, so listen to them. The ONLY low-fat Cheddar that's acceptable is Cabot or Cracker Barrel brand. And only the kind sold in block form--no pre-shredded cheese allowed. And not lower-fat than 50%. Got that? Disobey orders and your pimiento cheese will not be Crack-Worthy. I could only find Cabot low-fat Cheddar in the white variety, so you'll notice that my spread is a little pale, but it tasted just lovely.


  1. OMG your story is hysterical. And blaming Emil Shraeder - for everything - it is genius. (I would tell my kids this one, but they'd use it on me... )

    Cheese+Mayo+Butter=perfect for my former house (um, closet) guest. That kid went through the GIGUNDO-sized mayo, himself, in a matter of a week. He put it on EVERYTHING. And both my kid and I never said a word.

  2. Yum. I love pimiento cheese on a ritz cracker. I always thought pimiento cheese was a Southern thing (right there with fried bologna).

  3. Crack-worthy. There's a phrase that needs to find a place in my vocabulary. I love cheese spread on crackers as well, though I've not yet advanced to spicy stuff, just garlic & herbs.

  4. How funny that a lost shirt ended up taking all the blame! I love it. This sounds like it would quickly become one of my crack snacks!

  5. I think we have completely different taste in food. I have never eaten pimento cheese. Granted it is because I think pimentos look kinda gross.

    You would hate to hafta feed me, huh...

  6. Your healthy version does sound good, and good to know about the low fat cheese.

    We didn't have any named "gremlin" to blame everything on (that was a good one). I did use Kevin Kramer to relentlessly tease my sister! I'll tell you about it later! :)

  7. Emil Schraeder! Love it. I only wish you knew where that shirt originally came from. I hate unsolved mysteries!

    This is a funny thing about food: scarcity is directly correlated to perceived taste. The harder something is to find, the more you crave it. The white kitchen bread and Long Johns from my hometown bakery are to die for - and ridiculously cheap.

    When we drive through Chicago, we always stop for breaded steak sandwiches at Ricobene's on the South Side. They are an obscenely large Italian sandwich with cheese and marinara sauce - messy and delicious, and always worth it because we only get them once or twice a year. Now I have a craving...

  8. I love me some minnercheese, and I've found that putting cukes on said pimiento cheese sandwiches lessens the guilt over one's potential ass expansion. (I also have found that I can get away with less mayo if I stir in some of the pimiento juice, and I have to recommend putting some Worcestershire in there -- try it some time.)

  9. Oh, boy, this might just make me take the pimiento-cheese plunge, which I have despised since birth (or maybe just despised the thought of, since I can't actually remember ever trying it). But these days, all Baby wants is jalapenos and cheese. Together or separate, no matter. Your recipe is a godsend.

  10. Huh. I just cut out a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for reduced fat mac 'n cheese. They said the same thing about cabot and cracker barrel. Love me some pimientos. Like your dad, I hoard. I won't tell you what I selfishly order on eBay. I eat it all to myself, a few nibbles at a time. I snarl at anyone whose fingers come even close to the bag, like a junk yard dog. Nope, I won't tell you what it is. I won't share.

    Great story.

  11. I love that story, every house needs an Emil Schraeder!

  12. Is cheese spread the stuff you squeeze out of a tube? I used to love that stuff, however I think I wouldn't like it so much today....yours sounds tastier.

  13. I am going to have to make this for my sister in law, who LOVES pimento cheese spread. And although her arse does not need shrinking (she doesn't have children yet...)she would appreciate the less clogged arteries, I am sure!

    P.S. Loved the comment about your daughter and the braces...sometimes, it really SUCKS to be a mom, doesn't it?

  14. If only Emil Schraeder knew the legend he had become in your family.
    God, I have not had pimento cheese in Eons. Suddenly after reading your post, I have a craving for it.

    I love your uncanny ability to take a dull topic like Pimento Cheese and turn it into a tale that keeps you smiling, and nodding your head up and down.

  15. I'm going to use the line with my husband tonight when he gets home and asks where his dinner is. I'll say, "Emil Schraeder ate it." I think it might go over quite well, don't you? It's a keeper, that's for sure. He'll be blamed for many of the mishaps in the house going forward.

  16. I have to step aside on trying your cheese spread. While, I adore anything typically with cheese in it, I have never liked pimento cheese spreads of any variety. Much to my mother's chagrin. She loves them. On second thought, maybe I'll make this for her. I love your Emil story!! Don't worry, you are definitely not the only family with those weird sayings that only you understand. See See Tart Tart is one of ours. Remind me to tell you the story some day.

  17. You are such a great writer. I love reading your words and always hear my stomach growl when I look over your recipes.

    I love this post. I love Emil Schraeder, man of mystery!

  18. Hubs' two favorite things in life? Spreadable cheese and jalapenos. Put the two together and, well, that's one happy man. Looks like I'll be trying this one!

  19. Oh TKW your "White Trash Motherload" title chowed up on my blog today, but I couldn't get there from work. Then book fair at Miss Lu's School, poking around for dinner. Here I sit almost an hour past bed time reading your post and...

    worth it as always. This one looks like a keeper, Cheese spreads are one of my weaknesses.

  20. I love pimento cheese! I am Southern by birth, after all. But here in CA, I had to request my grocery store buy it! I've made it, but it's nice to grab it at the store. But now I'm totally going to try this because I also love "Eating Well" and TKW!

  21. Okay, TKW, first meatloaf, then cauliflower, now pimiento cheese spread. Um, has a midwestern farm girl taken over your soul?

    If the next recipe is pigs in blankets, I'll know the answer!

  22. This is so so up my street- I love spicy cheese, nacho cheese, cheese dip, cheese spread - you name it...I can't get enough of it but yes, you are right - it is a thigh packer/arse this recipe sounds like great news...though not sure about the cheese here in the

  23. Yeah I'm the same as Curious Cat, can't convert the cheese to UK versions!

    I'm taking this Emil Shraeder home with me though, I'm pretty sure there's loads of stuff he's responsible for in the flat!

  24. I love how you add history to your recipes. It makes me want to cook. Almost. (But I looove watching. It feels so productive without getting off the couch.)

  25. Had you grown up in the South, you would have been introduced to pimiento cheese and banana sandwiches in toddlerhood. (That's two different sandwiches!) Real Southerners use only Duke's mayonnaise, of course.

    When I was a child, fast food restaurants weren't on every corner and my mother would pack fried chicken, potato salad, and pimiento cheese sandwiches for long trips and we'd stop at picnic tables beside the road. I did it with my kids, too. . . but I got over it. :)

  26. Love the idea of the fall guy having a name.

    I make spread like this every summer only I do use the fat-free, not even mayo, Miracle Whip and more like a whole pepper or two. YUM!

  27. Great story! (We knew an Emil, too, when we were growing up -- my grandparents neighbor and friend) And the recipe? Can't wait to try it. I, TOO, love the Whole Foods version - I just bought some yesterday!

  28. I don't share my food either like your dad ask Amanda about my sunflower seeds I never share. LOL

  29. I wish they'd call those pickled red peppers something else, because the word "pimiento" is inextricably linked in my mind with "pimiento loaf," and all foods in the headcheese/loaf category make me want to hurl.
    So, peppery cheese spread, eh? Nice.

  30. Is Emil Schraeder sneaking in your fridge these days? Love that story!

  31. Oh man, reduced-fat cheddar is so tricky. Good advice on the brands. I tried Kraft once to put in cheese sauce and it CURDLED. Nasty, nasty fail. I was scared to pick up reduced-fat cheese of any kind ever again for cooking.

  32. Pimento Cheese! I thought my mom and I were the only closet addicts. So glad to know I have good company!

  33. I'm with you that pimento cheese IS crack, but I remain skeptical about the low fat version. Still, EatingWell is generally pretty good, and that DOES look tasty ...

  34. Mmm, I've never tried this, but I think it's a must, especially given the arrival of March Madness!

    By the way, what is a pimiento? I know it's the thing inside of an olive, but from what does it derive? I might have to Wikipedia it...I'll check for news of Emil while I'm there.

  35. We had neighbors once whose last name was Peed. They had a son, Kermit. This family was as goofy as their name, sadly. Do I need to tell you anything more?
    My dad loved, adored, drooled over.. Win Schuler's cheese. You can still buy it in my market. There is not one healthy thing about this cheese spread. And I am still afraid to read the container. I had to buy it for him for many years. That and bacon crackers, which thankfully, Florida doesn't seem to have, so my sister mailed them from Michigan to him.

    How my dad, with his appalling eating habits lived to be 94 is amazing to me.

  36. That was such a funny story. I'm intrigued, did they ever find out where the shirt came from?

  37. We have so many of those "people" we blame. It sure as heck beats fessing up! : ) (Don't tell Sarah...)

    I LOVE cheese and crackers.

  38. This is the first recipe of yours that hasn't floated my boat. But the post had me giggling so its okay!!!
    Yuck Pimientos!

  39. Woman, I could read your stories forever. You are insanely talented. Even Emil Schraeder can't deny that.

  40. Loved this post! And glad you liked our cheese. Can't wait to try your recipe myself!

    ~Regan Jones, RD
    Cabot Creamery Cooperative

  41. I love your story!! And I love that cheese spread - I first had it in Wisconsin and I don't even like pimento's, but it is like crack to me! :D

  42. I did notice your cheese was a little pale, but your explanation covers you predicament nicely. When it comes to low-fat cheese, messing around isn't a good idea.

  43. I always love these posts! This healthier version looks terrific. I'm going out to shop for ingredients this weekend!

  44. I love you little side note. I love it when you score a low-cal, great snack.
    Growing up my parents hid their crack snacks on top shelves. Once we were tall enough to get to them, there was no threat dire enough to keep us out. Mmmmm. Forbidden crack snacks.