Meanwhile, back at the ranch (dressing) …

250px-Ranch_dressingMarch 10 is National Ranch Dressing Day, and AllSpice staffer Anna worried that we’d be remiss if we never told our friends about this important food holiday, and the salad dressing (and dip) that inspired it.

So here’s the 411 on America’s favorite dressing:

There really is a Hidden Valley Ranch. Not just an idyllic picture on a packet of a make-believe place, there really was (is) a Hidden Valley Ranch.

From plumber to rancher to salad dressing mogul. Nebraska native Steve Henson created this buttermilk dressing recipe as a young man, working as a plumbing contractor in Alaska in the early 1950s. A few years later, Henson and his wife bought the old Sweetwater ranch near Santa Barbara, California, and turned it into a dude ranch rechristened the Hidden Valley Ranch. Guests enjoyed playing at rancher stuff during the day, and were served hearty meals in the evening – meals which included salads topped with a signature “ranch-style” buttermilk dressing.

hidden-valley-ranch-300x205The ranch style dressing was such a hit, that the Hensons began making extra dressing for guests to purchase, and made packets of the dry seasoning blend, so that fans could mix up their own ranch with mayonnaise and buttermilk at home. Rising demand spurred the creation of the Hidden Valley Food Products company, who sold the mix around the West and Southwestern US.

Clorox bought the rights to the recipe, and started distributing the tasty dressing mix nationwide in 1972. They figured out how to make a shelf-stable (no refrigeration needed) version of the bottled dressing in the early 1980s, and ranch dressing has been America’s favorite, best-selling dressing since 1992, when it knocked Italian dressing out of the #1 spot.

In the intervening decades, ranch (the dressing, and the made-with-sour-cream thicker dip) has become ubiquitous in American fast-casual restaurants, and on parents’ short list of “ways to get picky kids to eat stuff that’s good for them.”

Cooking-food-stuffed-jalapenos-peppersThis sauce is boss. Ranch dressing is common in the United States as a dipping sauce for crunchy raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots or celery, and as a dip for chips and fried foods like french fries, chicken wings, and breaded-and-fried dishes such as fried mushrooms, zucchini, pickles, jalapeno poppers (pictured), onion rings, and so on.

While wildly popular in the United States and Canada, ranch dressing is, incredibly, unheard of in other parts of the world.

Do you love ranch dressing and dip as much as we do? We’ve got our own recipe for homemade ranch seasoning blend – that leaves out preservatives with names like calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate that you find in the storebought prepared dressing and dry seasoning mix. Use this recipe to make a fresh batch: just mix with milk, buttermilk, mayonnaise, or sour cream for an irresistibly American sauce, dip, or salad dressing.

Photo credits: mason jar of dressing
Hidden Valley Ranch
Jalapeno poppers Jon Sullivan