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Mr. Willoughby’s Coral Knob (Pimento Cheese)

Mr. Willoughby’s Coral Knob (Pimento Cheese)

Beyond the Books, Voyager

The Chinaman nodded, satisfied, and sat back.  The moon was full up by now, three-quarters full, and bright enough to show the little Mandarin’s face as he talked.

“Yes,” he said, through Jamie, “I thought much of women; their grace and beauty, blooming like lotus flowers, floating like milkweed on the wind.  And the myriad sounds of them, sometimes like the chatter of ricebirds, or the song of nightingales; sometimes the cawing of crows,” he added with a smile that creased his eyes to slits and brought his hearers to laughter, “but even then I loved them.

“I wrote all my poems to Woman — sometimes they were addressed to one lady or another, but most often to Woman alone.  To the taste of breasts like apricots, the warm scent of a woman’s navel when she wakens in the winter, the warmth or a mound that fills your hand like a peach, split with ripeness.”

Fergus, scandalized, put his hands over Marsali’s ears, but the rest of his hearers were most receptive.

“No wonder the wee fellow was an esteemed poet,” Raeburn said with approval.  “It’s verra heathen, but I like it!”

“Worth a red knob on your hat, anyday,” Maitland agreed.

“Almost worth learning a bit of Chinee for,” the master’s mate chimed in, eyeing Mr. Willoughby with fresh interest.  “Does he have a lot of those poems?”

Diana Gabaldon, Voyager (Chapter 46)

Mr. Willoughby.  Yi Tien Cho.

Mandarin.  Poet.  Scholar.  Artist.  Complete.  Runaway.  Exile.

Drunk.  Foot Fetishist.  Healer.  Friend.  Traitor.  Saviour.

A complicated and, when we last left him, very desperate man who I have reduced down to nothing more than his little red globe.

But the way I look at it, if he’s going to call out my peach, then I’m gonna make a cheese ball out of his coral knob.

A perennial staple at Southern picnics, potlucks and church socials, pimento cheese was actually first developed in New York at the turn of the 19th Century and gained popularity across the nation as a new, mass-produced, and modern food. Originally a combination of spanish pimiento peppers and the newly invented cream cheese, it’s popularity began to wane in the North after WWII.

Since then, Southerners, in addition to purchasing their pimento cheese from the store, have made their own homemade versions, although there is little reference to it in cookbooks, even in the South, before the 1990s.pimento cheese

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Mr. Willoughby’s Coral Knob (Pimento Cheese)

Makes about 3 cups


  • 1 cup diced pimentos or roasted red peppers
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) aged Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • Tabasco to taste


Reserve 2 tablespoons of the pimentos for the garnish.

In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and paprika. Add the cheeses, pimentos, and onion. Beat together well with a wooden spoon to develop a slightly creamy texture. Taste and season with a dash or two of Tabasco if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight), to allow the flavours to mix and mellow.

Pack the mixture into a small bowl and invert onto a plate. Top with a small pile of the reserved pimentos, to act as the “knob.”

Serve with crackers or baguette slices, or try it on a grilled cheese, stirred into grits, or atop a sandwich of Rosamund Lindsay’s Pulled Pork with Devil’s Apple BBQ Sauce (page XXX).

Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.


  • The hot paprika may raise the hackles of some pimento cheese purists, but along with a little coral colour, it also adds a complex flavour that I love. If you can’t find hot paprika, use sweet instead.




  1. Jen C.
    February 16, 2012 at 4:22 am

    “But the way I look at it, if he’s going to call out my peach, then I’m gonna make a cheese ball out of his coral knob.”

    Not much can make me laugh at 5:15 am….but this did. 🙂

  2. Ohhh, so they’re wee individual servings? I love that idea. They’re so gorgeous that I’d put them on my coffee table. 🙂 I’m thinking though; you probably should have included oysters in some way. The man was a hound, well and truly.

    • Theresa
      February 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

      The oysters will have their day, never fear, Christiane!

  3. aaron
    February 16, 2012 at 6:45 am

    I love the part where Fergus covers Marsali’s ears!! By time we get to FC, Marsali and all the kids are corrupted by Fergus!! These look verra yummy and I will try them soon~

    • Theresa
      February 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Yes, good old sweet, innocent Fergus, eh?

  4. outlanderfan
    February 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I like that we can make individual ones or one large one- I’m going to keep this recipe handy for my next gathering, thank you!

    • Theresa
      February 16, 2012 at 9:42 am

      My pleasure, Outlander Fan! I hope you clan enjoys it…Theresa

  5. Kate
    February 16, 2012 at 7:50 am

    These look tasty! I love that they are bite size. Any usual cheese ball or log is big and awkward so I normally shy away from them but these are perfectly portioned…

    • Theresa
      February 16, 2012 at 9:42 am

      One perfect bite!

  6. ruaTimeTraveler2
    February 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

    LOV! …It’s so exciting to see what you come up with next!

    • Theresa
      February 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Thanks, Vickie!

  7. Donna
    February 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Never would have thought to use the cilantro/pistachio combo! I have got to try that!!! You’re the (wo)man!!!

    • Theresa
      February 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Thanks Donna…once you start thinking, the list of garnishes is endless!

  8. dearli13
    February 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    sounds delicious!!! and it’s gluten free!!! it also seems to be stupid proof. LOL which is very good for me hahaha.

    • Theresa
      February 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Gotta love no-bake recipes!

  9. Christine
    February 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    This looks good.

  10. sweeteves
    February 17, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Hehe I’ve never read outlander (though your blog has me greatly tempted) but I have to agree with Jen. Calling out your peach is a no no. By all means let us all feast on his coral knob lol. 🙂


    – Eve

    • Theresa
      February 17, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Glad to have you on my side, Eve! Now, let`s talk about why you haven`t read Outlander? Hmmm…

  11. Kiri W.
    February 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Wow, these are so, so pretty – very impressive, and it sounds delicious!

    • Theresa
      February 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks, Kiri!

  12. deniz
    February 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Wow. What a gorgeous, yummy idea. I’d eat these every day! Thanks Mr Willoughby 🙂

    • Theresa
      February 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      We ate them everyday for almost a week, Deniz! Mr. Willoughby says you are most welcome.

  13. Lee Ann
    February 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Cheese is my (other) addiction!

    • Theresa
      February 22, 2012 at 10:45 am

      I assume the other is whisky? 😉

    • Lee Ann
      February 22, 2012 at 11:41 am

      and Outlander. And beer. Oh dear….

    • Theresa
      February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am

      LOL! All good for your health when taken in moderation…

  14. Peggy
    February 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Oh yum! Bite sized cheese balls – genius =)

  15. DJ
    December 6, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    What do you think of substituting soft goat cheese for the cream cheese?? Obsessed with goat cheese lately, lol!
    Love this page, btw!! Thanks so much!

    • Theresa
      December 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Great idea, DJ! All goat cheese may be a little strong, but it depends on what you like…I might be tempted to use at least 1/4 cream cheese, but the final decision is up to you. 🙂

  16. Laurie Brett Pearsall
    December 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I made this as 3 – 1lb logs for a 3 night buffet. It was AMAZING!! My young “sous chef” (he’s just 13) was in charge and after a few math issues he did a great job. This won many compliments and I even managed to take a slab home with me. Thanks for all the great recipes you create!

  17. Linda Canfield
    April 17, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Recently had small balls of goat cheese rolled in powdered pralines , served with a salad DELISH!

  18. Kimberly
    August 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    My family is not a fan of roasted red pepper… Any suggestions for substitutions? Love the recipes! Can’t wait to try them! 🙂

    • Theresa
      August 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      It’s the roasted pepper that makes it red…maybe you can find another red veggie you do like?

    • kimberly
      August 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      hmm… maybe sun dried tomatoes?

    • Theresa
      August 14, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      Great idea!

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