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Sunday, October 05, 2008 

Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

Did you know that one of the most popular salad dressings originated here in Santa Barbara? Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.

In the late 50s and early 60s, Steve and Gayle Henson's dude ranch was favored by weekend visitors who wanted to enjoy the natural surroundings.

The ranch menu often included salad with a dressing created by Steve from a dry mix of herbs and spices, mayonnaise and buttermilk. The dressing was so popular it soon became the only dressing served.

When a visitor asked for a batch to take back to Hawaii for a large party he was throwing, Henson knew he was on to something big. A few days later, the guest called wanting more. Everyone had gone wild over it.

...One day, he went down to the nearby Cold Spring Tavern, a popular local hang out, and barged into the kitchen to mix up some of his secret concoction.

He came out with a little white bowl, handed Audrey Ovington the owner, a spoon and asked her to taste it.

She said, “It took off in my mouth like a freight train.” She immediately put it on the menu.

...Steve Henson copyrighted the Hidden Valley name, but never got around to protecting the word “ranch”. You can find Ranch dressing at almost every salad bar next to the French, Italian and Thousand Island but not necessarily made by Hidden Valley. - Free Enterprise Land

In one of my cookbook hauls at the Planned Parenthood booksale, I found a recipe in "Welcome Aboard - Santa Barbara Yacht Club Cookbook for the 90's" that claims to be the "original" Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. Try it and see what you think!

Original Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

1 quart mayonnaise
1 quart buttermilk
1 rounded teaspoon Accent
1 rounded teaspoon celery salt (or powder)
1 rounded teaspoon onion salt 9or powder)
1 rounded teaspoon garlic salt (or powder)
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Mix all ingredients.
(To reduce quantity, mix equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk and add seasonings to taste.)

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It's close but I am pretty sure that the original had some dill and parsley in it.
I would also lose the MSG(Accent)since so many people have a reaction to it.

When I begin my search for a long-wished-for recipe to "adopt" as my favorite I usually do an extensive search, often meshing different recipes into my own. I was just about to make a selection from the MANY I'd found when I found your recipe. Right when I saw it I knew it was probably the original version. Why? Well, first the source. Secondly,it looks just like something my Mom would whip up in a hurry, like when she adds the same seasonings to a bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce along with a little brown sugar to make her barbecue sauce. Fast, cheap, and easy, and with the magic that only a Mom can do, delicious! A man in Alaska and later Santa Barbara is not going to have access to way too much as far as seasonings, especially in the 50s. Think about it.

The half buttermilk and half mayo is almost perfect by itself and the basic seasonings called for in this recipe make it even better.

My first thought when I tasted it was "That's it!" That IS the Original Ranch Dressing! Perfect for a fast, easy version. Use the same ratio of mayo/buttermilk with fresh herbs for a slower, kicked up version and WOW, what a winner!

Thanks so much for posting this, along with the background source info, CookiesinHeaven! So greatly appreciated here and will be used and enjoyed often.

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  • I'm Cookie Jill
  • From Santa Barbara, California, United States
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