My dad had Masters tickets for decades and loved making the trek to Augusta National every year. When my mom was still alive, he would sometimes take her although her interest was mainly in how pretty the azaleas were. So I grew up hearing about the delicious pimento cheese at the Masters Golf Tournament.
I finally had my own Masters experience a few years back and while I’m not generally a big golf fan, loved attending this iconic event. I stood about six feet from the (pre-sleazy) Tiger Woods and enjoyed hiking the impossibly green, perfectly manicured course from hole to hole, checking out the vast variety of clothing, which for men ranged from khaki shorts and polo shirts to … khaki pants and polo shirts.
One of the best parts of attending, of course, is enjoying the dirt cheap food and beer. I don’t think the menu has ever changed much and includes barbecue and egg salad, ham and turkey sandwiches. Prices range from $1.50 to $3.00. Beer ranges from $4 for domestic to $5 for imported. That’s right — you can get a sandwich and beer for less than $6.
One year my husband was lucky enough to be invited to the Masters. He took a small cooler in the car and carted home three pimento cheese sandwiches for me – a 2-hour drive from Augusta to Atlanta. Yes, the bread may have been a bit soggy on arrival, but that pimento cheese held up pretty well.
I’m not the only one with fond pimento cheese memories. My friend Krista Massell said she remembers going to the Masters with her father where they had a routine. “We’d pick up an egg salad sandwich, pimento cheese sandwich and a beer, the rush to the ropes of one of the greens to stake a claim with our chairs. We would then back to a sunny spot on the 1st hole to picnic on our sandwiches and watch the start.”
Her husband Steve had good intentions of sharing some goodies from the Masters with friends, but perhaps fell down a bit in the execution. “In 1969 I carried two egg salad and two pimento sandwiches back to Atlanta for friends. Eight days later, I discovered what the smell was coming from my trunk. I forgot to get them out once home.”
While some people consider golf to be a high-brow sport, pimento cheese is definitely not. Let’s start with the bread. No fancy-pants multi-grain, artisan loafs here. It’s white. (I’m resisting the urge to make a comment about the attendees at the tournament.)
As for the recipe, well, there seems to be some mystery around it and no one has the real, true, official Masters recipe. Apparently it has been the source of controversy, leading to Pimento Gate in 2013.
So a man in Aiken, SC made the sandwiches for years. Then the golf club switched vendors, and peeved about losing the business, Mr. Cheese Man wasn’t about to share the recipe. The new vendor tried to recreate it, but had trouble finding the exact right cheese.
They finally found the correct cheese by going to the man’s suppliers for mayo, pimentos and cheese. But there was still a secret ingredient missing. The recipe they have today is as close as they can come.
It’s like the recipe for Coke, reportedly locked in a vault. And Google turned up more several varieties, all claiming to be close to the real thing.
I even saw some versions with blue cheese, which I can’t believe is in there. That’s too fancy and too expensive to be sold for $1.50 alongside egg salad. So I’m going with this version adapted from www.theteesheet.com. Because these folks put a lot of time and thought into it. And because it has processed American cheese in it. That just seems right.
The Masters Pimento Cheese Recipe
- 6 ounces processed shredded yellow american cheese. If you can only get sliced, just chop it up
- 6 ounces shredded swiss cheese
- 2 ounces pimentos chopped up and some of the pimento liquid
- 2 generous tablespoons of mayonnaise
- dash of hot sauce to taste
- 1 tablespoon (or more) of heavy cream (optional)
- salt and pepper (optional)
- white bread
- Put shredded cheeses and chopped pimentos (with juices) in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and cream. Mix with a spoon or spatula. If it’s not easy to spread, add a bit more calories. I mean mayonnaise and/or cream.
- Add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread on two pieces of very white bread.
Serving size: 2-3 sandwiches
Calorie Count: You do not want to know. Just look at the ingredients and you’ll realize this is not a low-calorie, low-fat dish. So maybe don’t make Masters pimento cheese a daily part of your diet. Just make it and enjoy.