You've probably heard of pimento cheese, that addicting and uniquely Southern cheese spread, but what are those mysterious pimiento peppers that go into it? Are they ever used for anything else?
Fresh Pimiento Peppers
Pimiento peppers, also commonly spelled pimento, are red, heart-shaped sweet peppers that are about 2 to 3 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches long. They are barely spicy, very mild and sweet in flavor, and actually register the lowest on the Scoville scale (which measures heat). Fresh pimientos are harvested late summer to early fall, but most of the harvest is canned or bottled.
Other Uses for Pimiento Peppers
While it's probably hard to get your hands on fresh pimiento peppers, canned or bottled ones can be found in just about every grocery store, and they're also commonly used as a stuffing in green olives. Pimientos can add a sweet pepper flavor to your dishes quite similar to roasted red bell peppers.
Even if you think you've never had pimientos before, you probably have — dried pimientos are ground into the common spice paprika!
The most popular use of pimientos is in pimento cheese. Sometimes dubbed "the caviar of the South," this dip or spread combines cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimientos together at its most basic level, but variations can include cream cheese and hot sauces. This delicious cheese is spread onto celery or crackers or even used in sandwiches.
(Image credits: Christine Gallary; http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-642571p1.html/Shutterstock; Faith Durand)