There are two distinct definitions for pimento. One is a variety of red pepper, much like a red bell pepper. The other is a spice that originated in Jamaica, also known as allspice. Although many people may think they are unfamiliar with one or both kinds of pimentos, the reality is that they may have consumed them through a variety of recipes without realizing it.
What Does a Pimento Look Like
When most people think of a pimento, they think of the red chunk of pepper that is in the center of a green olive; however, pimentos go far beyond that in their use. When left whole, they are large, heart-shaped peppers with a bright red color. They can range anywhere from 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) in length and 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) in width. Depending on its variety, the pepper can be sweet, but it is nearly always flavorful.
What Do Pimentos Taste Like?
Pimentos are a sweet red pepper and are sometimes used interchangeably in recipes with roasted red peppers. While pimentos make a suitable swap for roasted red peppers, pimentos often have a sweeter flavor than most red peppers. While pimentos can be spicy when seasoned with certain spices or when added to certain dishes, pimentos are typically milder than other peppers in flavor. Because of their mild flavor, dried ground pimentos are often combined with other dried varieties of peppers to make paprika seasoning. The mild pimentos balance out the flavor of spicy peppers when combined to create paprika seasoning.
How to Eat Pimentos
Because of their strong flavor, green olives are commonly stuffed with the sweet variety of pimentos. Originally, these peppers were cut into bite size pieces and squeezed into the olive by hand. Now, in most cases, they are pureed and then stuffed in with the aid of a machine, reducing the cost and making the olives more affordable.
Uses for Pimentos
There are many other uses for pimentos. They can be chopped and put into salads, or used as a flavorful addition to pasta dishes. One of the most beloved uses is in pimento cheese, a favorite in the Philippines and in the southern portion of the United States. Many people love the cheese spread on white bread, celery, crackers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, or grits.
How to Make Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is an incredibly easy recipe to prepare, and you only need ten minutes to make a pimento cheese spread. For a simple pimento cheese spread, you’ll need two cups of sharp cheddar, eight ounces of softened cream cheese, half a cup of mayonnaise, one four-ounce jar of pimentos, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and jalapeno if you enjoy a little spice. First, you’ll need to drain the jar of pimentos, then combine all of the ingredients, excluding the salt and pepper, until the ingredients are well combined. Then you can season to your tastes with salt and pepper.
Is Pimento Cheese Healthy?
Pimento cheese may be a southern favorite, but it may not be a healthy addition to your menu. Cheese, cream cheese, and mayonnaise are typically high-fat and high-calorie foods. While this is true for most recipes and varieties of pimento cheese, there are light or low-fat swaps that cooks can make to lower the fat content of their pimento cheese spread. Cooks can opt to use low-fat cheese and plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
Cooks can also swap out half of the mayonnaise for a combination of low-fat mayonnaise and plain Greek yogurt to maintain a texture and taste that more closely resembles original pimento cheese recipes. While pimento cheese isn’t necessarily a healthy dish, there are swaps that cooks can make to improve the nutritional value of the dish. There are also varieties of pimento cheese that are considered Keto and gluten free.
How Long Does Pimento Cheese Last?
Because pimento cheese makes a delicious snack when paired with crackers, celery, or bread, you will want to enjoy this cheesy concoction for as long as possible. If you store any leftover pimento cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator, your pimento cheese spread will last for one to two weeks. If you feel that one to two weeks isn’t enough time for you to enjoy your pimento cheese, you might wonder if you can freeze what you haven’t eaten.
Can You Freeze Pimento Cheese?
Unfortunately, homemade pimento cheese usually shouldn’t be frozen. Because homemade pimento cheese is made with mayonnaise and other high-fat foods, these foods have oil separation when frozen and thawed. This affects the texture of the cheese spread, and thawing this cheese spread doesn’t have an appetizing result. Some varieties of store-bought pimento cheese freeze well, but the integrity of the spread depends on the ingredients, the container, and the storage process. If you purchase a freezable variety of pimento cheese, it will usually keep well in your freezer for about three months.
While pimento cheese is one of the more popular ways to enjoy pimento peppers, it certainly isn’t the only way. If you’d rather keep your pimento dairy-free, there are other ways to enjoy the pepper. One other favorite use of the pepper is in pickle and pimento loaf. It is a processed meat, similar to bologna, that contains pickles, and of course, pimentos. It is usually sliced and served like any deli meat. There are a few companies who make the loaf out of chicken instead of beef and pork. While pimentos are often enjoyed in dishes with other ingredients, pimentos on their own can make for a healthy addition to any meal.
Are Pimentos Healthy?
Because pimentos, or pimientos, are red peppers, they contain a myriad of nutrients. Like other peppers, pimentos are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K. An adequate intake of vitamin A can prevent eye problems from occurring. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that offers many benefits to a person’s immune system. Pimentos also contain a small amount of folate. Folate is best absorbed when eaten alongside foods rich in B-nutrients. Folate supports the function of the nervous system. Pimentos also contain a small amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K contributes to bone health.
The Jamaican Pimento
Another entirely unrelated item is the Jamaican pimento, also known as allspice. It consists of two parts: the tree and the berries. The dried, unripe berries are commonly ground into a spice that tastes similar to cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg, all as a single spice. The tree is an evergreen that grows to be 19.6 to 49.2 feet (6 to 15 m) and is popular for the smoking and carving properties of its wood. Allspice is one of the major exports of Jamaica.