One of America’s Favorites – Ranch Dressing

February 11, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Homemade ranch dressing

Ranch dressing is a type of salad dressing made of some combination of buttermilk, salt, garlic, onion, mustard, herbs (commonly chives, parsley, and dill), and spices (commonly black pepper, paprika, and ground mustard seed), mixed into a sauce based on mayonnaise, or another oil emulsion. Sour cream and yogurt are sometimes used in addition to or as a substitute for buttermilk and mayonnaise. Ranch dressing has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, when it overtook Italian dressing. It is also popular in the US as a dip and flavoring for chips and other foods. In 2017, forty percent of Americans named ranch as their favorite dressing.

In the early 1950s, Steve Henson developed what is now known as ranch dressing while working as a plumbing contractor for three years in the remote Alaskan bush. In 1954, he and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch at the former Sweetwater Ranch on San Marcos Pass in Santa Barbara County, California, where they served it to customers. It became popular, and they began selling it in packages for customers to take home, both as a finished product and as packets of seasoning to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk. As demand grew, they incorporated Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc., and opened a factory to manufacture it in larger volumes, which they first distributed to supermarkets in the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. In October 1972, the Hidden Valley Ranch brand was bought by Clorox for $8 million.

Kraft Foods and General Foods responded with similar dry seasoning packets labeled as “ranch style”. As a result, they were both sued for trademark infringement by the Waples-Platter Companies, the Texas-based manufacturer of Ranch Style Beans (now part of ConAgra Foods), even though Waples-Platter had declined to enter the salad dressing market itself out of fear that the tendency of such products to spoil rapidly would damage its brand. The case was tried before federal judge Eldon Brooks Mahon in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1976. Judge Mahon ruled in favor of Waples-Platter in a lengthy opinion which described the various “ranch style” and “ranch” products then available, of which many had been created to compete against Hidden Valley Ranch. Judge Mahon specifically noted that Hidden Valley Ranch and Waples-Platter had no dispute with each other (though he also noted that Hidden Valley Ranch was simultaneously suing General Foods in a separate federal case in California). The only issue before the Texas federal district court was that Waples-Platter was disputing the right of other manufacturers to compete against Hidden Valley Ranch by using the label “ranch style”.

Meanwhile, Clorox reformulated the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing several times to make it more convenient for consumers. The first change was to include buttermilk flavoring in the seasoning, meaning much less expensive regular milk could be used to mix the dressing instead. In 1983, Clorox developed a more popular non-refrigerated bottled formulation. As of 2002, Clorox subsidiary Hidden Valley Ranch Manufacturing LLC produces ranch packets and bottled dressings at two large factories, in Reno, Nevada, and Wheeling, Illinois.

During the 1980s, ranch became a common snack food flavor, starting with Cool Ranch Doritos in 1987, and Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lay’s in 1994.

During the 1990s, Hidden Valley had three kid-oriented variations of ranch dressing: pizza, nacho cheese, and taco flavors.

A mixed salad with German “Würziges Ranch-Dressing”

Ranch dressing is common in the United States as a dipping sauce for broccoli, carrots and celery as well as a dip for chips and “bar foods” such as french fries and chicken wings. It is also a common dipping sauce for fried foods such as fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, fried pickles, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, chicken fingers, and hushpuppies. In addition, ranch dressing is used on pizza, pickles, baked potatoes, wraps, tacos, pretzels, and hamburgers.

In Germany, Kühne produces a product labeled as Würziges Ranch-Dressing (literally “spicy ranch dressing”). It is based on the common recipe but contains additional tomatoes, red bell peppers, and red pepper. Its color is not white but looks like cocktail sauce.

Ranch dressing is produced by many manufacturers, including Hidden Valley, Ken’s, Kraft, Litehouse, Marie’s, Newman’s Own, and Wish-Bone.

 

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