The month of July is past half over; the weather this week has been different to say the least. It has been hot and humid and this past week on two different evenings, the wind started blowing out of the east and the next thing I knew it was pouring down raining, for quite a while. The wind stopped, the rain stopped and the skies cleared for the rest of the evening. Then, it happened again on Saturday evening the same way. My sister had gone into town for the evening Mass and they barely got into church when it began storming, but by the time they were finished with Mass, everything was clear again! And, out of those two evenings of storms, there is just one inch of rain in my gauge! Of course, I am not complaining, anything is better than nothing, as dry as it has been around here.
Ladies, my friend and I were trying to clean a popcorn machine that had not been used in a very long time, the kettle itself was totally black with burned on grease from not being cleaned thoroughly each time it was used, just imagine your worst black cast iron skillet and figure it twice as bad! The only time it was used that I know of is whenever there was a Health Fair or any type of community participation program in the waiting area and down the halls of the hospital, the Auxiliary always served fresh popcorn. Everyone loved it, but after attendance at these affairs dropped down and while construction was going on, these programs stopped and the machine hasn’t been used. Anyway, my friend talked to her sister who told her to put some baking soda in the pot, add lemon juice, let it foam up and then add vinegar and it would help take the grease off. It worked fairly well, but the grease was too much for even that, but I think it would work well in the kitchen! Next time I want to try to clean built up grease off of something I will try it, she said it cleaned the bottom of pots really well.
Do you know how long pimento cheese has been around? It started showing up in grocery stores as early as 1915. During the ‘20s and ‘30s this item boomed in popularity. It is traditionally served slathered between two slices of white bread. Elvis Presley even used it to top his hamburgers with, because it made something ordinary into something extraordinary.
In the 1940s, Mildred and Weldon Price of Texas began mass-producing their family recipe for pimento cheese under the Price’s brand name. They combined real shredded cheese, fresh pimentos and seasonings for a wonderful homemade taste.
When I was growing up, when you wanted cheese, you went to the meat market and the man behind the counter cut a piece off of a five-pound loaf. Pimento cheese was available the same way, American cheese with little red flecks in it. Later on, both types were available in packages, already sliced. Back then, however, most women made their own pimento cheese with American cheese that was melted and the pimentos were stirred in. This is how it was made at school lunchrooms during the ‘50s. The following recipe is from an old Fredericksburg Cookbook that used Velveeta cheese. (I have no idea when Velveeta came on the market, and Mother never used it.) She made her pimento cheese by simply grating American cheese, stirring in mayonnaise or Miracle Whip and adding drained pimentos. Almost everyone I know makes some form of pimento cheese, and like the stuffing we serve with turkey there are probably as many recipes as there are cooks!
Most of us know pimentos as the little red strips stuffed into green olives. The pimento is actually a red, sweet, and milder tasting cousin to the red bell pepper. The name “pimento” is actually the Spanish word for “pepper”.
1 cup shredded Velveeta® cheese
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in the milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 small jar (2-oz) diced pimentos (drained)
Combine cheese, butter, milk/cornstarch mixture and salt in top of double boiler and cook over hot water until cheese is melted and smooth; then remove from heat and add pimento and paprika, stirring to mix well. Store in bowl in refrigerator.
One of the things that I prefer to do with prepared pimento cheese spread, especially a store brand, is to beat together 4-oz of cream cheese with a small amount of mayonnaise, ½ cup (or more if desired), Monterey Jack cheese until well blended and then mix into the container of prepared spread along with a 2-oz jar of well drained pimentos.
My Family’s Favorite Pimento Cheese
(This makes a large amount that is great to take on a picnic or sandwiches for a shower)
1 pound shredded American cheese
½ pound shredded Velveeta® cheese
1 block (8-oz) cream cheese
1 cup (or more if necessary) mayonnaise
1 jar (4-oz) and 1 jar (2-oz) diced pimentos, well drained
Beat cream cheese with mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in remaining shredded cheeses and pimentos and mix well. Serve as sandwiches or with crackers.
The following recipe for pimento cheese is from a Fraternal organization cookbook that was published in the late 70s, and uses only Velveeta®, pimentos and salad dressing. Another recipe from the same book is pretty much the same, but adds a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the mixture.
Pimento Cheese Spread
1 lb. Velveeta® cheese
1 pint salad dressing
Dash of garlic salt
1 jar, (3-oz) pimento strips
Have cheese and salad dressing at room temperature. Slice cheese and put in large mixing bowl. Mash with fork; add salad dressing and garlic salt and stir together. Mix with mixer until smooth and creamy. Cut pimentos into small pieces and stir into cheese mixture. This makes enough cheese spread for two loaves of sandwich bread.
The following chicken salad recipe is delicious, it can be used as a spread for crackers, or eaten on a bed of lettuce as a salad; either way, it is great. I have made it for a group and they all loved it.
Chicken Salad with Apples and Walnuts
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped*
½ cup finely diced celery
2 to 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1/3 to ½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
3 tablespoons roasted sunflower seed kernels (you may use either salted or unsalted)
Light mayonnaise to moisten ingredients
Dice the chicken and place into a bowl; add the remaining ingredients stir lightly to mix. Add the mayonnaise and gently toss together to coat all ingredients. Chill before serving. *I like to chop the apple and place it in a small bowl with some 7-up to prevent darkening.