Benedictine is one of those iconic Louisville recipes that the rest of the world just hasn't caught onto yet. Come springtime in the Derby City, though, you're bound to see the cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwich spread on several serving tables.
Benedictine was invented by Jennie C. Benedict, a Louisville native food critic, cookbook author, and caterer. Over the years, Miss Benedict owned a soda fountain and a tea room, and she developed a spread to accompany cucumber sandwiches. The following is said to be her original recipe:
Jennie Benedict's original Benedictine recipe
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 3 tbsps. cucumber juice
- 1 tbsp. onion juice
- 1 tsp. salt
- A few grains of cayenne pepper
- 2 drops green food coloring
These days, most folks go for grated cucumbers and onions in place of the juices and omit the Easter-egg green color. Some folks add dill, creating a distinctly tzatziki taste; others add a little mayonnaise or sour cream to thin the spread down for use as a sauce.
Of course, Louisville-area hostesses are often short on time as the Kentucky Derby draws near, so I asked some local ladies in the know for advice about Benedictine, and found that a lot is up to personal taste. One friend known for her own terrific Benedictine recipe and fabulous Derby parties admitted that, in a pinch, she'll pick some up from Plehn's. Others mentioned Karem's Liquor and Deli, Divinity Catering, Home Cuisine, Uptown Cafe, Paul's Fruit Market, and Ladyfingers for their pre-made spread needs.
The serving style for Benedictine sandwiches is also a matter of some discussion. Some folks prefer a dainty tea sandwich served on white bread, while others are devoted to a darker bread like pumpernickel. And, of course, there are plenty of folks who like their Benedictine in combination with other sandwich fixings. My personal favorite is the Benedictine and Bacon from Stevens & Stevens Deli. (which is, inexplicably, listed on the vegetarian menu...)
Whether made from scratch or purchased pre-made, served in a dainty sandwich or in a healthy dollop with bacon, Benedictine is a classic taste of the Kentucky Derby that you’ll crave every spring!