My grandmother was an excellent cook. Fortunately, many of her recipes and techniques were handed down through the generations.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
My recent adventure into the facts, fictions, and personal warm memories of Russian dressing began a few months ago in the grocery store while I was buying "fruit on the bottom" yogurt. I quickly found what I was looking for and collected two small containers to put in the cart. In an instant, some unknown collection of brain cells flashed me back to my school days, and I stood motionless in the grocery aisle, a container of yogurt in each hand.
In those years, my favorite lunch was blueberry "fruit on the bottom" yogurt, a small garden salad drowning in Russian dressing, and a cup of coffee. My favorite dinner out was a cheeseburger, a lettuce wedge likewise drowning, and again the cup of coffee. Any dinner at home always included a garden salad drowning once more in delectable Russian dressing, this time homemade by my mother.
There I was in the grocery store, holding two yogurts, staring off into nowhere, and a pressing urge hit me, worse than having to pee . . . I absolutely had to find a bottle of Russian dressing right then and there.
Dressing Gone Missing
There was no Russian dressing in the store. Not one salad dressing brand of the 15 or so on the shelves offered this object of my immense desire. No problem, I thought. I'll go down the road to the other store. No luck. Over the next few weeks I called everyone I knew and asked them if they had seen Russian dressing anywhere in their grocery shopping travels. Apparently, the dressing had gone missing, or worse.
I Took to the Internet
Russian dressing, I soon discovered, has been around since the early 1900s. It was a mainstay not only of my centric life, but of the Russian Tea Room in New York, Rombauer's Joy of Cooking, and even Larousse Gastronomique. How can such a noble tradition fade into oblivion?
Once past the history, I found an exciting clue on a webpage called See the WORLD'S OLDEST Salad Dressing. The page featured a bottle of Seven Seas Russian Dressing. There I learned that Seven Seas is a Kraft brand. I went to Kraft's website and started searching using their product locator. No luck. Then I sent Kraft a hopeful inquiry using their "Other Contacts Form." My message was returned as "undeliverable." Geeze.
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That pressing urge I felt in the grocery store had settled into a dull ache. Since I couldn't find any bottled Russian dressing, it was time to call Mom.
Mom to the Rescue?
"Mom, remember that Russian dressing you used to make when we lived on Taylor Avenue?"
"Sort of," she said.
"How did you make it? I know it had ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, vinegar, milk, and sugar in it. But I don't remember in what proportions."
"I don't either," she said.
"Aw, come on," I said. "You made that dressing every day I was in high school and college."
"It was a snap to make," she said.
"So," I said, "How did you make it?"
"I guess you put all those things you said together and mix it up," she said. "And make sure you use sweet pickles, not sour ones."
That's exactly how she made it. She never measured ingredients then, just as she never measures them now. What was I thinking?
My Family's Russian Dressing Recipe
A few jars of mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickles later, here's what works for me. It's a thick, piquant dressing and makes four to six servings.
- 3 mounded tablespoons Miracle Whip salad dressing (if you want a thinner dressing, add a little milk now and beat it in well)
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon sweet pickle (gherkin) juice from the jar
- 1 Teaspoon sugar
- 2 mounded tablespoons ketchup
- 3 small sweet pickles (gherkins) minced finely
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (the more, the better)
- In a small bowl, add in the Miracle Whip, white wine vinegar, sweet pickle juice, sugar, ketchup, and mix well.
- Blend in three small sweet pickles (gherkins) minced finely and freshly ground black pepper to taste (the more, the better).
- Cover and refrigerate.
My recipe has been taste-tested by my daughter, who loves it. I have yet to share it with Mom. If you have any information regarding the bottled Russian dressing gone missing, please comment!
Note: Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.
© 2008 Sherri