Pimiento cheese is a dish best served cold.
Unlike revenge, the spread is best eaten soon after it is made. Enjoyed a myriad of ways: Grilled, sandwiched between slices of soft-white bread, slapped on grilled hamburgers, garnished with crisped flags of bacon, baked into casserole or dipped from a plastic tub while standing in front of the refrigerator, there is one woman who knows how to make it taste good.
Niki Farrington of Niki’s Pickles and chef at Silo Bistro and Bar in Winston-Salem plays social worker to restaurant-industry workers by day and a pickled soul by night. She is keeping busy since Silo shut down permanently on March 17. Almost busier than before.
Farrington was born in West Virginia and moved to North Carolina to attend Appalachian State University and then went on to the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she attended the Jane Adams College of Social Work. She left her career in social work with older adults in palliative care to pursue a career in food, but now the most important work she’s doing is still in social work.
During the day, you can find her assisting displaced, furloughed and out-of-work restaurant workers in Winston-Salem through the Heard Collaborative Café out of the former Providence Kitchen inside BB&T, now Truist Bank headquarters. Each weekday from 2-4 p.m. she assists those applying for unemployment benefits, financial assistance and food assistance.
In the evenings and on weekends, she and her small staff ramp up production of her pickled products out of her factory in the heart of downtown Pilot Mountain.
In mid-April, Farrington posted on Facebook that she would be selling pints and quarts of the Southern spread.
“We sold $2,000 worth in two hours,” she said. “We arrived to the factory with the police directing traffic and a line of cars down the street.”
Her pimiento cheese recipe is loosely based on her mom’s cheeseball recipe. The cheeseball is accented with dried chives and crushed walnuts, but Farrington’s recipe has the non-traditional additions of mustard and garlic powder. When developing the recipe, she says “I thought about what I think should be in it.”
When asked why she decided to make pimiento cheese in bulk, she said, “The effort is for love and comfort. We make very reverent and simple meals that honor our friends.”
At the turn of the last century, pimientos were cultivated in great numbers in the South in order to add to pimiento cheese. Mild, sweet and similar to red bell peppers, pimientos register a zero on the Scoville Heat Unit Scale — which measures the heat index or concentration of capsaicin in chilis. For the home cook, roasted red bell peppers are more easily accessible and are a reasonable substitute. Sold fresh or in jars, they add color and a tinge of sweetness to the sharp contrast of cheeses in the dip.
Niki’s Southern Pimiento Cheese
Yield: 1 pint
- 16 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 cup roasted red peppers, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- Place the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, garlic powder, onion powder and red peppers into the large bowl of a mixer.
- Beat at medium speed, with paddle, until thoroughly combined.
- Season to taste with salt.