PD Greenwell reads cookbooks the way some people read novels. She enjoys food history, creating new recipes, and serving beautiful food.
Benedictine is a delicious cucumber sandwich spread used to make tea sandwiches. This recipe was created by a Kentuckian and many Kentuckians have their own family recipes that they haul out for family get-togethers and other special occasions. Benedictine is a “must have” on any Kentucky Derby Party menu.
It is important to understand that Benedictine is in no way connected to the religious order, nor does it make use of the French liqueur, also known as Benedictine.
Also remember, it “must” be green, or it just isn't Benedictine!
Benedictine was developed in Louisville, Kentucky by Jennie Benedict (Miss Jennie), a Louisville caterer, sometime around the turn of the century. Miss Jennie was a significant force in the Louisville food and business community.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1860, Miss Jennie trained with the famous Fannie Farmer at the Boston Cooking School and returned to Louisville to open her catering business in 1893. She began her business in a small kitchen built in the backyard of her home. She eventually did so well with her catering business that she was able to move to a larger kitchen in downtown Louisville in 1900. She later opened her own restaurant, Benedict's, which was very popular with Louisville clientele.
Jennie Benedict was a fine businesswoman, becoming the first woman on the Louisville Board of Trade. She also helped start the Louisville Businesswoman’s Club in 1897 and was active in Louisville humanitarian efforts. Jennie Benedict is credited with serving the fist school lunches in Louisville - chicken salad sandwiches that were sold from a handcart. Jennie Benedict was quite well known in her time and had opportunities to relocate to larger cities; she chose to stay in Louisville instead for her entire career.
Benedict retired to her home "Dream Acre", on a bluff overlooking the
Ohio River, in 1925 and wrote her autobiography, "The Road to Dream
Acre". Jennie Benedict died in 1928 and was buried in Louisville's Cave
Jennie Benedict’s work defined early 20th century middle class cooking in Kentucky and her legacy continues to be found on restaurant menus and served on home tables across the state. Miss Benedict wrote her “Blue Ribbon Cook Book” in 1902. Many of the recipes contained in this cookbook are considered classics, such as Waldorf Salad and Parker House Rolls; many are considered Kentucky Classics. Interestingly, Miss Jennie did not include her recipe for Benedictine in her 1902 Blue Ribbon Cook Book, nor in any of the following three editions published in her lifetime. The recipe for Benedictine is first included in the 5th edition of Blue Ribbon Cook Book, introduced by Susan Reigler, published by University Press of Kentucky in 2008.
In 2009, the Louisville Courier-Journal published a recipe that they identify as the Benedictine recipe Jennie Benedict would have most likely included in her cookbook, if she had been inclined to do so. I find the recipe far too salty. If you plan to try this recipe, I recommend that you begin with 1/8 teaspoon salt, then increase salt to taste.
Benedictine sandwiches are typically served as tea sandwiches, cut into crust-less triangles. You can also use cutters to make fancy shapes. Often, you will find Benedictine sandwiches served with Pimento Cheese sandwiches. Benedictine also makes a tasty dip for crudités or to spread on crackers.
You will also find Benedictine recipes that utilize the cucumber and onion pulp rather than just the juice. These are actually quite delicious as well, but perhaps merely "cucumber sandwiches" rather than the delicate Benedictine spread created by Jennie Benedict.
PDGreenwell's Family Benedictine Recipe
Here is my family's traditional Benedictine recipe. Please note, that we typically ignore tradition and do not dye the spread green for home use. We find the color a little off putting.
This is wrong; we know this and we apologize heartily to Miss Jennie. At Derby time, however, we do honor tradition and use a drop of green food coloring to give our Benedictine sandwiches the green hue that is expected.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons cucumber juice
- 2 tablespoons onion juice
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 drop green food coloring, optional, unless you are a Kentuckian
- Peel cucumber, cut into pieces and whirl in a food processor until liquefied.
- Drain through a sieve; remember you will be using the juice for this recipe. Discard the pulp.
- Separately, peel the onion, cut into pieces and liquefy in the food processor. Drain the onion in the same manner as the cucumber and save the juice, discarding the pulp.
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well blended. You do not need a mixer for this step; it should blend easily with a spoon or rubber scraper.
- If you want to keep to tradition, add a drop of green food coloring to achieve the traditional color Kentuckians expect from their Benedictine. Be very careful or the Benedictine will become too green very quickly!
Please try, then rate this recipe!
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CraftytotheCore on January 09, 2014:
I love cucumber tea sandwiches. We used to have an awesome little tea place here that had the loveliest sandwiches. They are so delicious.
Patti Ann from Florida on August 08, 2011:
Sounds great - looking for something to do with all my cucumbers from the garden. Thanks!!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2011:
I had never heard of Benedictine Cucumber spread. Sounds good and thanks for the interesting history about Jennie Benedict.
Katie McMurray from Ohio on June 14, 2010:
I adore cucumber sandwhiches, never knew how to make Benedictine and now I do thanks :) Can't wait to enjoy this... :)
PDGreenwell (author) from Kentucky on June 13, 2010:
This is pretty tasty stuff. I have to say, it is much easier to make if you own a food processor - getting the juice out of an onion is no easy feat, otherwise. There's a little bottle of onion juice one can purchase, but I really don't recommend it. Bottled onion juice is to fresh onion juice just as bottle lemon juice is to fresh lemon juice - an approximate, but not quite the same thing.
Kaie Arwen on June 13, 2010:
This sounds great......... I didn't know that cucumbers were used as a spread, but I do love cucumber soup on a hot summer day! Haven't thought about that in years...... thank you- kaie