North Carolina People, Places, and Things-July 1
I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.
In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.
I have always viewed pimento cheese as a southern dish. I have also thought that maybe somewhere it might have it origins to North Carolina. I was wrong on the origin but correct on North Carolina’s influence on the dish.
Emily Wallace is a freelance writer from North Carolina and illustrator with a master’s in pimento cheese. She serves as deputy editor of Southern Cultures, is a chief contributor to the Indy Week, and has written and illustrated work for other publications including Our State, The Washington Post, The Oxford American, and GOOD. Wallace has served as a judge for the Book Awards committee of the James Beard Foundation. She lives in Durham with her dog Rubick.
Emily technically got her Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in American Studies. Her thesis for her master’s degree was called “It Was There for Work: Pimento Cheese in the Carolina Piedmont.”
If you want to read her thesis is posted below:
Pimento’s are a pepper.
Until 1908, the United States got its pimentos — a close relative of the bell pepper — from Spain, in cans. Pimentos got to Europe in the first place, not unlike tomatoes, when Columbus brought them back from the New World. Eventually, farmers started growing them in California, and soon in Georgia, which took over the industry in the 1920s. By the 1960s, Georgia was the Pimento Capital of the World, with Southern states growing 90 percent of the nation’s pimentos.
As for combining pimentos with cheese, Wallace cites the 1867 Mrs. Hill’s Southern Practical Cookery and Receipt Book as urging cooks to combine grated cheese with butter, and to mix in red pepper “to protect fresh cheese from flies.” The early recipes she discovered originated in New York not the South.
Today North Carolina produces a lot of pimento cheese. Ruth’s Salads, in Charlotte, is one of the largest producers of pimento cheese in the Southeast, manufacturing some 45,000 pounds of the spread per week. And Stan’s in Burlington, like Star, makes 25,000 pounds.