(NEXSTAR) – Ranch dressing might have been popularized at a California ranch, nevertheless it was loved by hungry Alaskan plumbers lengthy earlier than any “ranch” figured into the story.
Steven Henson, the Nebraska native who created ranch dressing, invented the now-ubiquitous condiment after shifting to Anchorage in 1949 and taking a job as a plumbing contractor within the Alaskan bush, based on a biography of Henson printed within the Santa Barbara Unbiased. Henson concocted the recipe for what would later be dubbed “ranch” dressing considerably out of necessity, the outlet reported, after taking over a secondary function within the kitchen whereas “making an attempt to maintain his hungry work crews comfortable.”
“It’s powerful to feed males up in these bush jobs,” Henson as soon as remarked in an interview with the Los Angeles Occasions, based on an archived article cited by Tedium. “In the event that they don’t like one thing, they’re as more likely to throw it on the cook dinner as they’re to stroll out cursing. I needed to give you one thing to maintain them comfortable,” he added, noting that it was throughout this time within the then-Alaska Territory that ranch dressing “got here into being.”
Inside only a few years, Henson had reportedly saved up sufficient cash to retire. He and his spouse moved to California within the mid-Fifties, the place they bought 120 acres of land within the mountains close to Santa Barbara (then-called Sweetwater Ranch, based on the Unbiased) and rechristened it as “Hidden Valley Ranch.”
“I wouldn’t name it a ranch, in actuality,” remembered Alan Barker, a former worker at Hidden Valley Ranch who spoke with CBS Sunday Morning in 2021. “There have been no animals, there have been no crops. It was a motel within the mountains.”
By most accounts, Henson’s “ranch” didn’t appeal to too many company. However the ones who did go to reportedly raved concerning the dressing on the on-site restaurant, with some “asking Steve for jars of his ranch dressing to take pleasure in at dwelling with their family and friends,” based on the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing model’s personal report.
“From my reminiscence, it was buttermilk, Miracle Whip, some spices and I feel some chopped-up shallots — after which, the ingredient that was stored secret: pure MSG,” Barker instructed CBS Information. (Barker additionally claimed in an earlier interview with the L.A. Occasions that the dressing referred to as for “buttermilk and mayonnaise,” making no point out of Miracle Whip particularly. Henson, in the meantime, had lengthy earlier than admitted to utilizing MSG within the ranch packets he would finally promote.)
Henson quickly began focusing extra on the dressing than the ranch. He offered it to an area restaurant (the still-operating Chilly Spring Tavern) and started producing dry seasoning packets to promote off-site, and later by way of the mail. Prospects wanted solely to combine the contents of the packets with buttermilk and mayonnaise to have their very own Hidden Valley Ranch dressing at dwelling.
Henson’s enterprise took off by the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, after which the Clorox Firm supplied Henson $8 million for the entire operation, the Santa Barbara Unbiased reported. Within the ‘80s, Clorox in the end developed a shelf-stable bottled model of Hidden Valley Ranch — moderately than only a dry combine — that could possibly be shipped to shops.
The debut of Cool Ranch Doritos in 1986 gave the product yet one more enhance (regardless of not being affiliated with the Clorox Firm), and is credited with introducing concept of ranch dressing as a dip, The New York Occasions reported in 2018, citing the writer of a then-new tome on ranch dressing.
Henson himself offered the bodily Hidden Valley Ranch in 1973, however maintained properties in Palm Springs, California, and Sparks, Nevada. He handed away in Reno in 2007, per an obituary within the Reno-Gazette Journal, which implies he sadly didn’t dwell to see the invention of kegged ranch dressing, or ranch dressing ice cream.
Even nonetheless, Henson as soon as remarked to the L.A. Occasions that he by no means may have imagined the trajectory his life would take after mixing up a batch of dressing within the Alaskan bush.
“What began out nearly as a lark grew to become a multimillion greenback trade,” Henson mentioned.