Recipes for Spring

...Mint julep and Derby Pie celebrate the Run For the Roses

Jayne de Constant

Long years ago, a young woman married a young man from Kentucky and learned about the traditions and fun of Derby time in the blue grass state. Derby Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in May.  This year the date is May 5th.

Spring in New England leaves much to be desired, but Spring in Kentucky is a wondrous time.  It comes early.  The azaleas are in full bloom; the weather is lovely, not hot and humid as it will be during the Summer months.

The Run for the Roses climaxes a week of anticipation.  Even the small children in my preschool class knew the names of the horses that would be racing at Churchill Downs.  We crowded the Ohio River banks to watch the paddle boat race between the Bell of Louisville and the Delta Queen; cheered and clapped as the Pegasus Parade marched and trotted down the main streets of Louisville.  We also looked forward to attending Derby Breakfasts and parties at which we would indulge our appetites and thirsts with all manner of good food and drink.  

Derby means juleps.  The cups are polished, mint is flourishing and bourbon is abundant.  What more can I say except juleps are served mostly at Derby time and mainly to out of town visitors.

Kentucky Mint Julep

    2 oz. bourbon
    1 tsp super fine sugar
    mint sprigs
    crushed ice

Place bourbon and sugar in cup.  Stir well.  You may muddle mint sprigs and add to liquid.  Fill cup with crushed ice and stir until cup is frosty.  Garnish with additional mint.

There are many delicious foods served at Derby parties.  Kentucky country ham is an important part of the cuisine.   I cooked one only once.  It was large, had to be soaked for hours, scrubbed, wrapped, baked, etc.  Never again.  Beaten biscuits are good with the ham.  They are beaten with a wooden mallet for about 20 minutes or until the dough blisters and has a satiny surface.  I bought mine.

One good recipe comes to mind:  Derby  Pie

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup chocolate chips
9” unbaked pie shell

Mix sugar, syrup and butter.  Add eggs, pecans and chips.  Pour into pie shell and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake 30 to 35 minutes.

As always, I will cry when the band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” and remember what it was like to be young and foolish.

So, which horse did you pick to win the race?  She’ll never beat mine!

(Photo by Judy Palm)

May, 2007