The Seasoned Cynic’s Green Goddess Benedictine.
Why We Love Benedictine
A quick Google search doesn’t often lead to the discovery of a role model, yet three words lured me into an obsessive hunt for information about a Louisville woman who was famous during her lifetime but is virtually unknown today.
Allow me to tell you why Jennie Carter Benedict, who was born in 1860 in Harrods Creek, Kentucky, should be a household name.
Wishing to prove what a woman is capable of in business, Jennie opted in 1893 to have a kitchen constructed in the backyard of her parents’ home on Third Street. Promising to compensate the builder when she could, Jennie focused on joyfully baking fruit cakes. They were so delicious that she received more orders than she could handle and was able to pay for her kitchen in full within six months!
Jennie’s first store opened at 412 S. Fourth St. with the help of investors. Two years later, she published the first edition of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. In 1911, Benedict’s Restaurant opened at 554 South Fourth Street with 65 employees to operate both the restaurant and catering service. It was here that Jennie invented Benedictine as a sandwich spread for tea service.
Over the course of the next 14 years, Jennie created a culinary empire that spanned several states and influenced the palates of Louisville citizens so greatly that many of the flavors and dishes we enjoy today can be directly traced back to her.
In 1925, she sold her business for $50,000. Once retired, she moved to a home she called “Dream Acre” on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River near Mellwood Avenue. She spent the next three years focusing on philanthropic work and wrote an autobiography entitled The Road to Dream Acre. (Find it at the Louisville Free Public Library.)
As you celebrate Derby and Mother’s Day, I hope you will remember this remarkable lady, share her story, and be inspired by her life, which was filled with joy, commitment, and compassion. I wish you satisfying work, genuine love, lots of fun, and a tea party with Benedictine finger sandwiches!
Yields roughly 1 quart
2 (8 oz.) packs cream cheese, softened
1 ripe avocado
1/4 tsp. black pepper, at least
1/2 tsp. salt, at least, plus an extra sprinkle
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp. shallots, minced (optional)
2 cups English cucumber, chopped
1. Add a generous sprinkle of salt to your chopped cucumbers and lay them in a large bowl on top of a thin layer of paper towels. Fold the edges in to cover the cucumbers and place something heavy directly on top. Set aside for at least 10 minutes, then squeeze as much liquid from the cucumbers as you can. Remove them from the paper towels and place them in a dry bowl. This process allows you to end up with a thick Benedictine that isn’t watery!
2. Use a mixer to combine the first 8 ingredients (through sour cream). Beat vigorously until smooth and creamy, then lower the speed and blend in the chives, tarragon, mint, shallots (if using), and cucumbers. Season to taste and feel free to blend in more of the fresh herbs. Cover and chill for 24 hours.
3. Serve on slices of bread, garnished with mint and thin slices of cucumber to make beautiful finger sandwiches. You can also serve this spread as a crudité dip. Enjoy!
Note: It’s OK to experiment a little and add or omit ingredients. For instance, you could throw in some fresh dill, basil, chopped spinach, or parsley. Also, if you want to add the shallots but do not want them to be raw, simply sauté and allow them to cool before mixing them into your spread!
End dinner on a sweet note with this fruit cake recipe from Jennie.
Jennie credited this cake as the catalyst for her successful career. It can be found in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook.
1 pound butter
2 pounds raisins.
1 pound sugar
1 pound currants.
1 pound flour.
1/2 pound figs.
1/2 pound citron
1/2 pound pineapple.
1/2 pound candied cherries
2 pounds almonds.
1 tablespoon cinnamon.
1 tablespoon allspice.
1/2 glass of wine
1 cup of molasses.
1/2 glass of brandy.
2 teaspoons baking powder.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add New Orleans molasses, then eggs, which have been beaten separately, next the flour, which has been browned; then dissolve two teaspoons of baking powder in a cup of cream or new milk, and add to the mixture. Then add the spices which have been dissolved in the tumblerful of liquor. Chop fruit and nuts, dredge with flour, and put in the batter last. Bake slowly four hours.
Madeleine Dee is the owner of Fond, Fond Originals, & Bold Bird Productions. To watch the May episode of Madeleine’s cooking show, Easy Elegance, visit The Seasoned Cynic.