I am always looking for ways to use up the summer bounty of produce and here’s another one. Benedictine is a Kentucky staple, but little known outside of the state. Now, this culinary creation has nothing to do with the good monks who make wine and bread in the basements of their monasteries, but was invented by Jenny Benedict (thus the name) around the turn of the 20th century. Jenny started a tearoom on downtown Louisville’s South Fourth Street in 1911. Her recipe was cream cheese, cucumber juice, onion juice and salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne, and a couple of drops of green dye. It became and still is an institution in Louisville, where, I am told, they spread it on everything.
Lilly’s restaurant in Louisville serves an updated version of the recipe which features the crunch of cumbers and onions, rather than just the juice. Here is my version of the recipe with a couple modifications to bring out the flavor of the cucumbers, a feature of my summer garden.
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Dash cayenne pepper
- Chop cucumber and onion by hand or pulse in food processor. It needs to have some texture and not be mushy.
- Combine all ingredients and mix well by hand.
- It’s best to make this a few hours ahead to let the flavors blend in the refrigerator.
Benedictine has a delicate flavor and is best served on white bread rounds or water crackers. Herbed or flavored crackers will overwhelm the delicate flavors. You can also use it as a sandwich spread. or use it to create tea sandwiches.