The Masters weekend is upon us as the best golfers from around the world prepare take on Augusta National for rounds 3 and 4 following the cut. When you think of the Masters you think of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pimento Cheese, Bubba Watson, and more. Yes, I did slide Pimento Cheese into the mix.
In case you didn’t know, one of the traditional Southern foods served up at the Masters is a Pimento Cheese sandwich served up on plain white bread. But, to be honest, Pimento Cheese was invented up North!
According to writer Robert Moss in his article From Scientific Cuisine to Southern Icon: The Real History of Pimento Cheese, the cheesy concoction is the result of several food innovations coming together. In the late 1800’s Cream cheese was hitting the shelves, canning was improving, tasty red peppers were being imported, and consumers were making their own versions of pimento cheese.
By 1910 food manufacturers caught onto the craze and finished pimento cheese products started showing up in markets. National brands soon followed. Most of the production, according to Moss’s research, was in New York and Wisconsin.
The thing to remember is that Cream Cheese was the main ingredient in these versions of Pimento Cheese. However, processed cheese version were also becoming popular after World War Two- as shown in the above picture of an A&P Pimento Cheese product courtesy of EdnasRuths Attic shop on ETSY. The Pimento Cheese recipe was beginning to Blur.
Where does the South Come in?
Well, there are a few things to consider. First – You can thank several innovative southern farmers and producers around the Griffin Georgia area for cementing Pimento Cheese as a Southern Classic! By the mid-1920’s the state of Georgia, mostly centered around Griffin, became a hotbed of domestically grown Pimento peppers. Plus, improvements in manufacturing made the peppers easier to peel. By 1938 The country’s largest packer, Pomona Products Company of Griffin, was producing 10 million cans of pimentos per year.
Then, following World War II, southern kitchen gurus seemed to alter the basic Pimento Cheese recipe! Instead of a creamy, Philadelphia cream cheese, based recipe – Southern cooks swapped out “creamy cheese” with shredded cheddar. But, they still needed “creamy” which means they started reaching for Mayonnaise!
Also – Have you ever heard of the Masters Golf Tournament? The Pimento Cheese Sandwich is a historic staple of the event; as shown by the picture of shelves loaded with green wrapped baggies courtesy of TheTeeSheet.com. But, the folks running the Masters got a bit crazy and fired the caterer in the Carolina’s that made it. They hired a local restaurant owner, Ted Godfrey owner of Wife Saver restaurant, to make it and after months of testing, the “committee” decided he had duplicated the original recipe perfectly. Everybody was happy!
Until the folks running the Masters got a little crazy and fired the second caterer as they wanted to make it in house. A few months go by and they call asking for the recipe. The answer was “no” but I’ll sell it to you for some Masters passes. The Masters folk got a little crazy and said “no” in response.
So Ted did what he thought was best… start selling Ted’s Famous Augusta Pimento Cheese! Now you can officially buy the famous “Augusta” cheesy orange concoction and spread it on bread in the comfort of your own home while watching the Masters on TV.
Wait… there’s more. The people running the Masters didn’t seem to like the idea of Ted naming his Pimento cheese Augusta so they bought the naming rights to it. If you’re looking for the original flavor then check out Wife Saver catering. And in case you’re wondering, Chef Thomas Keller now handles the Pimento Cheese duties for Augusta National and the Masters.
Whitaker Family Pimento Cheese
My wife Allyson makes amazing Pimento Cheese – regular and a jalapeno version. Adding the jalapenos is up to you. Enjoy.
3 ounces jarred pimentos, diced
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated pepper jack cheese
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Drain the liquid off of the pimentos. Next, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, cover, and chill before serving. You can form into small sausage like patties to fit each burger if desired. If you do, place on wax paper and chill or freeze before heading to the game. Since you never really know how much each person will want, I leave it in a bowl.
Author Bio:Kent Whitaker, also known as “The Deck Chef,” is an award-winning culinary writer and cookbook author. He’s also penned Young Reader, NASCAR and History titles. The former winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest also covers football, motorsports, and bass fishing. Kent currently lives in East Tennessee with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs that love when he fires up the smoker or grill. You can reach out to Kent at thedeckchef.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.