A Taste of South Carolina: Palmetto Cheese

By:Gwen Fowler


If you grew up in South Carolina, you might have a bit of an attitude about pimento cheese you can buy in the grocery store. That is, until you try Palmetto Cheese, which is better than most homemade.

Sassy Henry grew up in Atlanta and remembers her family taking pimento cheese and pound cake along on beach vacations.

Her husband, Brian, grew up in Louisiana, and Sassy started making jalapeno pimento cheese for him when they started dating. He told her it was good but not quite as good as his mother’s.

So Sassy worked on perfecting her recipe. When they moved to Pawleys Island in 2002 and bought the Sea View Inn, they began serving it as an appetizer during the Wednesday night Lowcountry Shrimp Boil.

By 2006, they had begun packaging the pimento cheese in 8-ounce containers. The first place that carried it for sale was Independent Seafood in Georgetown. Soon, they got it into Food Lion in Pawleys Island and later the Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield Beach.

Those Piggly Wiggly sales were the real launching pad for Palmetto Cheese, Sassy said, since vacationers bought it there and took it home.

Today, Palmetto Cheese comes in original, jalapeno and bacon. It’s sold in about 4,500 retail outlets in 28 states, a figure that Sassy can only describe as “truly mind-blowing.”

It’s also available online, with a 12-ounce container costing $5.49. It’s available at most grocery store chains, including Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Harris Teeter, Publix, Food Lion and others. A 16-ounce container is sold exclusively at Costco Wholesale.

The woman shown on the lid of each container is Vertrella Brown, a cook at the Sea View Inn who specializes in Gullah and Lowcountry cuisine. She began making batches of pimento cheese by Sassy’s recipe at the Sea View Inn. It’s because of her cooking skills that the Henrys call Palmetto Cheese “the pimento cheese with soul.”

“She was the perfect person to put on the label,” Sassy said.

Another place to buy Palmetto Cheese is at Get Carried Away Southern Takeout in Pawleys Island, where you can also get such delicacies as tomato pie, cheese biscuits and chicken bog. Brian and Sassy Henry opened that business in the summer of 2011.

Pimento cheese is good for lots more than a sandwich or a burger topping. You can also use it in macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, and cheese grits. On the Palmetto Cheese website, you’ll find recipes for shrimp cakes, stuffed crepes, tomato pie, even Palmetto Cheese cookies.