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National Ranch Day

Ranch dressing, celebrated and enjoyed today on National Ranch Day, is not only used on salads, but as a dipping sauce for chicken wings, pizza, fresh vegetables, french fries, tater tots, mozzarella sticks, tortilla chips, and more. Its cooling base makes it an ideal match for deep-fried or spicy food. It can be used in making macaroni and cheese, casseroles, stuffing, potato salad, fried chicken, and tacos, and as a flavor for potato chips and other foods. Ranch can be made with sour cream, buttermilk, and mayonnaise, which give it its creaminess. Yogurt and mustard are used in some recipes. Salt is used, as are herbs like parsley, dills, chives, and thyme. Black pepper is used, and other spices like paprika and ground mustard seed are sometimes used too. Onion and garlic are the other main ingredients. Ranch dressing is similar to other condiments made with cream and alliums, like aioli, toum, French onion dip, Alfredo sauce, and Caesar dressing. Ranch is most popular in the United States and Canada, and is not well-known in most parts of the world, where it is sometimes known as American dressing.

For three years starting in 1949, Steven Henson, a plumber from Thayer, Nebraska, worked as a construction worker in Anchorage, Alaska. He sometimes served as a cook for the crew, and it was at that time that he came up with a dry mix to make ranch dressing. Henson mixed garlic, onion, and fresh herbs with buttermilk, and ranch dressing was born. After he returned home, Henson and his wife, Gayle, bought a property near Santa Barbara, California, named Sweetwater Ranch, and renamed it Hidden Valley Ranch. They opened it as a dude ranch, and Henson's ranch recipe was perfected there in 1954. Hidden Valley Ranch had a ranch kitchen, or steakhouse of sorts, and the ranch dressing was used there, on foods such as steaks and vegetables.

In the late 1950s, the Hensons began packaging the dry ingredients for ranch to hand out or mail to customers, at a price of 75 cents each. People could then whip up ranch at home by adding mayonnaise and buttermilk. The first commercial customer was the nearby Cold Spring Tavern. Packaged mix arrived in stores in 1957. Mail-order dressing continued in the mid-1960s, even though the Hensons had closed the ranch. The Hensons incorporated Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc. in the 1970s, and opened a factory to make ranch in larger volumes. Clorox purchased Hidden Valley Ranch from the Hensons in 1972, but the brand has continued.

Ranch dressing's popularity grew, from the West to the Midwest, and became common in salad bars during the 1970s. A shelf-stable bottled version hit the market in 1983. Cool Ranch Doritos debuted in 1986, accelerating the popularity of the dressing, and setting the stage for it to be used on foods besides salads and as a dip. In 1992, ranch overtook Italian to become America's #1 dressing.

In 1994, another ranch-flavored chip of importance hit the market, when Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lay's debuted. Perhaps even more significant for that year, Domino's added chicken wings to their menu and sent ranch along with orders. Customers soon were dipping pizza into the ranch too, and ranch has been used on pizza ever since. Nowadays, a number of local pizza chains offer homemade ranch to pair with their pizza.

Hidden Valley remains the most popular ranch brand today and owns the right to the name "the Original Ranch®." Trademark lawsuits took place over many decades, and it was decided that similar style dressings can be labeled as "ranch" or "ranch style." Many manufacturers make ranch dressing today, such as Wish-Bone, Newman's Own, Ken's, Litehouse, Marie's, Kraft, and Kroger.

Hidden Valley Ranch has embraced National Ranch Day and celebrated it in various ways. They released a $35,000 bottle of ranch for the day and gave it out to a Twitter follower. They created and sold ranch fountains. They erected a 24-foot ranch bottle—the largest bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing ever—outside of the New York, New York Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip, and allowed people to fill containers of any size from it for free on the holiday. They even made a diamond ring using their ranch dressing for the holiday.

How to Observe National Ranch Day

Include ranch in everything you do today!

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