Monday, May 2, 2016

Kentucky Derby Benedictines

The Kentucky Derby is run this Saturday.  Benedictines - green cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese and onions - were created in the 1890s by Jennie C. Benedict, a caterer in Louisville.  Although she wrote two cookbooks, neither contained her famous recipe.

Jennie Carter Benedict (1860-1928) needed a job suddenly when she turned 33, so she started baking her fruit cake in her mother's home kitchen.  She built her business quickly.  Within months she had the kitchen enlarged, then she started making more dishes, prepared food for two school cafeterias, became an editor for the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper, taught classes, and spent one winter at the Boston Cooking School taking a "special course."

Although no one can know for sure the recipe for Miss Benedict's, now there are many recipes (some with tabasco or hot sauce) and even pre-made spreads.  The following recipe I found decades ago while we lived in Kentucky. I don't know the source, but I'd always make it for Derby parties and they are very popular. More Derby dishes HERE.

1 cucumber, seeded and grated
1 lb cream cheese
1 medium onion (much less, to taste) grated
2-3 drops of green food coloring

Peel, slice lengthwise, remove the seeds and grate.  Drain well.  Grate the onion.  Add cream cheese.  Mix well and add a few drops of green food coloring.  Spread on thin white bread, remove the crust.

The cucumber sandwich in her Blue Ribbon Cook Book used tartar sauce

Chop the cucumber, mix with tartar sauce and spread between bread.
In preparing sandwiches cut the slices of bread as thin as possible and remove the crusts.  If butter is used, cream the butter and spread the bread before cutting from the loaf.

A 1909 book called the sandwich "new" and used vinegar -

These are quite new. Slice medium sized cucumbers very thin, and let them stand in cold salt and water one-half hour, then drain off and pour over white wine or tarragon vinegar, with a few drops of lemon juice, let stand one hour, lay the cucumber slices upon small rounds of brown bread spread with butter.
Us Two Cook Book: Containing Tested Recipes for Two Persons by Jennie B. Williams  NY: 1909

Cookbooks by Jennie Benedict:
Benedict, Jennie C., A Choice Collection of Tested Receipts, with a chapter on … food for the sick. Louisville: 1897 HERE
Benedict, Jennie C., The Blue Ribbon Cook Book. Louisville: 1904 HERE

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
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