Benedictine: A Kentucky Derby Favorite

It’s that time of year again in Louisville, Kentucky. Ladies are getting their hats ready and people are taking out the silver spoons and sterling cups. Fresh spearmint is being plucked from the back yard and it will be crushed to infuse juleps with the flavor of the Kentucky Derby.

In case you haven’t been to Louisville for the annual Run of the Roses, you should know it’s a spectacular time of year to be in the Bluegrass. Aside from special drinks such as the mint julep, there are wonderful local specialties to try, and one of them is featured at Literary Labors today. It’s a cheese dip or spread known as Benedictine, and its namesake was Jennie Benedict, one of the most famous figures to emerge from Kentucky kitchens. She was a beloved restaurateur and caterer in the 1800s, and she was known for her wonderful cakes and tea sandwiches. The tasty cream cheese-and-cucumber spread she invented well over a hundred years ago still lives on today. This easy recipe comes from A Feast for the Eyes: Recipes from America’s Grandest Victorian Neighborhood. Old Louisville, the neighborhood she called home, counts as one of the largest historic preservation districts in the US today. Its hundreds and hundreds of elegant mansions and Victorian homes form a virtual open-air museum of 19th-century architecture.

Filson Historical Society
Photo by Robert Pieroni

Benedictine

1 large English cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup mayonnaise
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper

In a food processor, purée the cucumber, skin and all, with the onion. Remove from the processor and use a clean towel or a bit of cheesecloth to squeeze all the liquid out of the mixture. Set aside. In the processor purée the parsley and mayonnaise to form a smooth paste. This will give the Benedictine its characteristically green color. Add the cream cheese to the processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to the bowl with the onion-cucumber mix, season with the salt and pepper, and combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least an hour and enjoy with celery and pretzels, or use slices of brown bread to make finger sandwiches.

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