The Mystery of Pimiento

Nearly every kitschy recipe I find contains pimiento, and yet, I don’t see this ingredient that much in today’s recipes. Pimiento is obviously a key part of the kitschy cupboard, but what made it so? Was it cheap? Easily available everywhere?

When I think of pimientos I think of the parts that I usually pull out of green olives. I know that my grandma and aunties used them a lot in cooking, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I can only guess that they added color to a dish, you could keep a jar of them longer than you could your average hot pepper, and they were cheap enough that you could put them in every dish if you wanted to. (And I’m beginning to think that people in the 60s did just that.)

Before I wrote this, I honestly needed a refresher on what a pimiento really was and even what it tastes like. (Pardon my ignorance on the subject.) said a pimiento is:

A large, red, heart-shaped sweet pepper 3-4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Pimiento is Spanish for “pepper.” The flesh is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimientos are the familiar red stuffing found in green olives. Pimento is the name of the tree from which allspice comes.

This is why I love blogging so much. Pimiento is the name of the tree that gives us allspice? Didn’t know that. Is that really true?

Further exploration on the subject (same source) tells me it’s available all year round. You can also substitute it in recipes (now we’re talking my language!):

Substitutions: 1 tbsp dried sweet red pepper rehydrated = 1 tbsp chopped pimento; 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh red bell pepper”

The fact that it’s available year-round explains a lot, actually. I’m sure cooks of the 50s and 60s needed something cheap, small, and colorful to add some va-va-voom to their dishes. But they have to use so much of it?