Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwiches

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These are everything you would expect from cucumber sandwiches and more. By draining and chopping the cucumbers and incorporating them into the cream cheese mix you won't have to worry about biting into a cucumber that just won't quit!

Perfect for picnics, cocktails, receptions, tea parties, children's parties and a must for the Kentucky Derby. If you choose to serve them with wine, try a French Sancerre (white) or a dry rosé from Provence. Mint juleps is another alternative but you don't need to go overboard.

In order for these to be truly "Benedictine" they must be colored with green food coloring. You can if you must, but I try to avoid food coloring like the plague unless I am making cupcakes for my grandchildren. Instead, try adding something green and leafy like watercress.

I came across the recipe reading old issues of Southern Living and thought my readers would be interested in a variation of an old Southern classic as well as some Kentucky food history about the woman after whom this spread is named

The originals


Benedictine spread was developed in Louisville, Kentucky by Jennie Benedict (Miss Jennie), a Louisville caterer, sometime around the turn of the century. Miss Jennie was a significant force in the Louisville food and business community.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1860, Miss Jennie trained with the famous Fannie Farmer at the Boston Cooking School and returned to Louisville to open her catering business in 1893. She began her business in a small kitchen built in the backyard of her home. She eventually did so well with her catering business that she was able to move to a larger kitchen in downtown Louisville in 1900. She later opened her own restaurant, Benedict's, which was very popular with Louisville clientele.
Jennie Benedict was a fine businesswoman, becoming the first woman on the Louisville Board of Trade. She also helped start the Louisville Businesswoman’s Club in 1897 and was active in Louisville humanitarian efforts. Jennie Benedict is credited with serving the fist school lunches in Louisville - chicken salad sandwiches that were sold from a handcart. Jennie Benedict was quite well known in her time and had opportunities to relocate to larger cities; she chose to stay in Louisville instead for her entire career.
Jennie Benedict retired to her home "Dream Acre", on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, in 1925 and wrote her autobiography, "The Road to Dream Acre". Jennie Benedict died in 1928 and was buried in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery.

Jennie Benedict’s work defined early 20th century middle class cooking in Kentucky and her legacy continues to be found on restaurant menus and served on home tables across the state. Miss Benedict wrote her “Blue Ribbon Cook Book” in 1902. Many of the recipes contained in this cookbook are considered classics, such as Waldorf Salad and Parker House Rolls; many are considered Kentucky Classics. Interestingly, Miss Jennie did not include her recipe for Benedictine in her 1902 Blue Ribbon Cook Book, nor in any of the following three editions published in her lifetime. The recipe for Benedictine is first included in the 5th edition of Blue Ribbon Cook Book, introduced by Susan Reigler, published by University Press of Kentucky in 2008.

The things one learns when publishing a food blog!

Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwiches 

Makes 28 tea sandwiches 


  • 2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber (I would add 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 48 white bread slices
  • watercress leaves (optional)
  • a few drops of green coloring (if you must)


  1. Stir together first 7 ingredients. Spread mixture on 1 side of 24 bread slices; Add a few leaves of watercress for color if you like.  Top with remaining 24 bread slices. Trim crusts from sandwiches; cut each sandwich into 4 triangles with a serrated knife.

To make a dip add some sour cream


  1. I have a thing for Tea Sandwiches and these will definitely be added
    to the repertoire! Brilliant idea, chopping up the cucumbers.
    But I'm with you regarding the green food coloring. Terrible idea.
    The watercress will do just fine, thank you.

  2. The watercress is a great idea--it transforms these from scary-looking to extremely appetizing, and I'll bet it improves the flavor and texture a lot.

    I never understood trimming the crusts, though. If the bread is good at all, the crust is the best part!

    1. Parnassus, we were told as children that all of the nutrients of bread was in those crusts, and
      somehow believed that fable! It wasn't until years later that I shook off that warning and began
      trimming the crusts of tea sandwiches, which made them lighter and, let's face it, much easier to
      wolf down. Very liberating, removal of crusts. But as a frugal chef I never discard them. They
      become bread crumbs for other meals.

    2. Toby, we apparently had opposite childhoods. In my family, we devoured the crusts, and made breadcrumbs out of the middle part!

    3. Well, I come in the middle. I hate an untoasted sandwich with crust and always end up eating around it. The crust goes to the birds or bread crumbs. Here though, dearest P. you really should remove the crust to make them easier to wolf down with one hand!

  3. The things one learn. I love Benedictines but had no idea of their history and what a history!!! I thought that they were from some monestary or abbey! They are, food coloring or no, great tea sandwiches!

    1. You are not the only one, Martha. At first seeing the recipe I too thought they came from a monastery.

  4. I love your version. I think they are really the most civilized little sandwich. They are what I always think of when I think of proper English teas and ladies with white gloves (does anyone wear them anymore???).

    I SO agree about green food coloring. Love Jennie Benedict. Her recipe for mayo is wonderful too. It's got cooked egg yolk in it!

    1. I still have white leather gloves tucked in the back of my top drawer waiting for a day that never comes. They were so elegant, just like these sandwiches.

  5. Adding these to my tea sandwich repertoire! Thank you for the interesting history.

  6. So pretty, and a lovely variation on British cucumber tea sandwiches. Love the history!

  7. I adore tea sandwiches and these will most definitely be on my table when next I serve them! But my big question to you is: what kind of bread? Do you use the Pepperidg Farm thin sliced? It's hard to find, but the only kind I use for tea sandwiches...what do you think? I also use cookie cutters for my sandwiches: round, diamond or clover shape so the thin bread makes that possible! Thoughts?

    1. Definitely the same I use but make sure it's very very fresh!


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