East Tennessee's Pimento Cheese Connection

You can’t have pimento cheese without pimentos. The heart-shaped red pepper is a slightly sweeter cousin of the red bell pepper originally imported from Spain, which is why the vegetable is so often spelled pimiento. (Both spellings are correct.)

After the boll weevil decimated the Southern cotton crop early in the 20th century, the agricultural extension movement/scientists introduced the pimento crop to Georgia, which soon became the world’s largest producer. That distinction has long since been lost to California, but Tennessee still holds the title of the world’s largest producer of canned pimentos—and almost anyone looking to make pimento cheese is going to use those little 4-ounce jars.

It turns out the Johnson City company Moody Dunbar, which started in 1933 when schoolteacher Thomas Moody Dunbar tried to make some extra money by selling pepper seeds, is now the king of pimentos (and canned red peppers too). Some of those pimentos end up stuffed in olives, sure, but a whole lot end up in pimento cheese—especially in restaurants and the prepackaged spreads in grocery stores.

Moody Dunbar president Stanley Dunbar says, “We feel really great about it. We’ve been in business 78 years ... and we enjoy supplying pimentos to the retail trade.” As the only domestic producer of pimentos, Dunbar says he’s proud of pimento cheese’s current popularity—and the spread is of course one of his favorite snacks.

“I love it! I eat it all the time. Everyone here does,” Dunbar says.

© 2011 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 1

miel159 writes:

Well for me whatever the spelling of this pimiento, my main concern is the taste of this cheese pimento. This is my all time favorite I swear no joke! I am glad I found a story of my favorite pimiento!

Miel

My blog : http://www.solstratifie.org

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.