Harrodsburg’s Culinary Heritage
It only makes sense that the oldest permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains and Kentucky’s oldest city would have some serious culinary history. And Harrodsburg does.
In March 1774, Captain James Harrod and an expedition party set out for Kentucky to claim lands and make a settlement. After a long and adventuresome journey, on June 16, 1774, Harrod and his men laid out a town, naming it Harrodstown. A bustling frontier community, it steadily grew into the town of Harrodsburg.
About 30 years later, in 1805, another group of explorers came to the area: Shaker missionaries established a permanent community in Harrodsburg and named it Pleasant Hill. One of America’s most productive and prosperous subcultures, the Shakers are credited with numerous inventions and a dedication to industries including the production of brooms, garden seeds, herbs for aromatic and medicinal use and preserves. Although a thriving community with holdings of more than 4,000 acres in the 1830s, it ceased to exist by 1923 when the last Shaker died.
Fortunately, restoration efforts got underway, buildings were saved and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill today offers an ever-expanding roster of experiential-based activities in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers. Not only that, the Trustees’ Table menus celebrate Shaker Village’s roots by featuring dishes inspired by the seasons and prepared with straight-from-the-garden ingredients.
The cookbook, We Make You Kindly Welcome, shares many of these traditional, regional Shaker recipes, which were compiled by Shaker Village’s former director of dining, Elizabeth Kremer. It is available in the gift shop.
In 1845 – just 71 years after Harrod came to town – a school for girls was built that would become, two centuries later, a James Beard Foundation America’s Classic award recipient. The gracious Beaumont Inn, currently on the cusp of hitting a century of service in 2019, is Kentucky’s oldest family-owned and operated inn. In 1941, pioneering food critic Duncan Hines himself gave the inn a shout-out for its 2-year-old country ham, cornbread, beaten biscuits, pound cake, yellow-leg fried chicken and corn pudding.
These dishes are still served in the inn’s restaurants today. The recently published cookbook, Beaumont Inn Special Recipes (Sixth Edition), presents these time-honored recipes and others that have been passed down through five generations of family and friends. Find the cookbook in the gift shop or order online.
More recently, in 1992, author Susanna Thomas captured the secret recipes of Thelma Linton, whose cooking was so cherished and revered in the community that she was known as “the best cook in Harrodsburg.” It was a cookbook Thomas never intended to write, but one that, once put to paper, flew off shelves and has been requested with unabated interest ever since. Last year, in 2017, Thomas published Thelma’s Treasures Commemorative 25th Year Anniversary Edition. It is available for ordering through www.thelmastreasuresky.com.
Last year, in 2017, Thomas published Thelma’s Treasures Commemorative 25th Year Anniversary Edition. It is available for ordering through www.thelmastreasuresky.com.
Three cookbooks; three mouth-watering chapters in Harrodsburg’s culinary history. Here is a recipe from each one that not only shows off Kentucky culinary traditions but shares a tasty history lesson as well.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill – Shaker Lemon Pie
- 2 large lemons
- 4 eggs, well beaten
- 2 cups sugar
Slice lemons as thinly as paper, rind and all. Combine with sugar and mix well. Let stand 2 hours or preferably overnight, blending occasionally. Add beaten eggs to lemon mixture, mix well. Turn into a 9-inch pie shell, arranging lemon slices evenly. Cover with top crust. Cut several slits near center. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the edge of the pie comes out clean. Cool before serving.
Beaumont Inn – Corn Pudding
- 2 cups white whole kernel corn
- 5 large eggs well beaten
- 8 level tablespoons flour
- 1 quart whole milk
- 4 rounded teaspoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon Salt
Stir thoroughly corn, flour, salt, sugar, eggs and butter in a 7”x 9” or 2-2 ½ quart-sized pan. Stir in milk and mix well. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and stir vigorously with long-pronged fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and stir vigorously with long-pronged fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and stir lightly, disturbing the top as little as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, turning oven up to 475 degrees. Bake until corn pudding sets up. Remove and let tighten.
Thelma’s Kitchen – Benedictine
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and minced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 or 3 drops green food coloring
Beat the cheese in the mixer. Blend in the other ingredients well and chill. When ready to serve, spread on sliced bread.
To learn more about dining options in Harrodsburg, visit www.HarrodsburgKy.com.
Photo Credits: Beaumont Inn