1960s Pimento Cheese Crab Dip/Spread
Everything old is new again. A huge hit in the '50s and '60s, Pimento Cheese Crab Dip/Spread has long been a staple in the South (we reverently call it the "Pâté of the South") and is experiencing a renaissance elsewhere because -- face it -- it's delicious. Great at parties, pot-lucks, picnics, or on sandwiches, take a walk back in time and enjoy some!
Ingredients (makes about 2 cups of cheese mixture)
2 cups Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
4 oz Cream Cheese
4 oz Pimento Peppers (from a jar, available in most large groceries), chopped
12 cup Real Mayonnaise (like Duke's or Best Foods)
1/2 to 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (depending on taste)
1/4 tsp Paprika (used smoked if you prefer a light smoky back note to the dish)
Lump Crab Meat (see directions section on quantity)
Add all the ingredients except the crab to a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to blend the ingredients to a desired consistency: some people prefer a completely smooth mixture while other like theirs a little chunkier. If using a food processor, use the dough paddle and pulse to your desired consistency. We prefer mostly blended but with pieces of the pimento still showing.
Gently fold in the crab meat by hand; you don't want to obliterate it with the blender. How much you add is up to you: some like more crab than cheese, others prefer more cheese than crab.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld. It will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Unless you're really pressed for time, avoid using pre-shredded cheese. It's coated with a chemical that prevents clumping that we find inhibits the full cheddar flavor.
If for some reason you can't find Pimento Peppers, you can substitute roasted sweet peppers.
There are as many variations of this recipe as there are families. The Old Bay is a Mid-Atlantic ingredient; you can omit it and use onion and garlic powder instead. For a little heat, add Tabasco Sauce, diced Jalapeños, or a few pinches of Cayenne Pepper. Many cooks add a tablespoon of diced sweet onion, and adding 2-3 tablespoons of pickle juice is very popular in the South.
The spread will naturally harden in the refrigerator, so let it set at room temperature for a while before serving.