FAIRMONT - "Gramma Amber's Salad Dressing" was such a secret that it was kept in shorthand.
"Our Gramma Amber was the only one who made it, and she'd never give away the recipe," said Lisa Steffen of Forest City, Iowa.
Steffen, along with her brother and sister, is now retailing "Gramma Amber's Salad Dressing."
"Our mother was Dore Melson of Trimont," Steffen continued. "She also kept the recipe in shorthand."
Melson passed down the recipe to Steffen, along with her daughter, Lori Kruger of Bloomington, and brother, JD White, of Omaha. Steffen said that for many years, she has made the recipe and given jars of it away as gifts. The dressing was legendary in the northern Iowa communities where the family had roots.
While Steffen and her siblings always talked about going into business and selling the coveted salad dressing, the opportunity came along when Steffen made contacts with an Omaha business owner who had his own dressing.
"We started the process last fall, and we're still working on the final trademarking," Steffen said. "But we had our first batch come off the line on June 27. So far, we've already sold 800 cases, and we're getting requests from different stores to carry it."
As of last week, Hy-Vee in Fairmont put in a request for the dressing, according to Steffen.
"Several of the Hy-Vee stores in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska are carrying it," she said. "The managers of the Hy-Vee store contacted me and said they'd been having requests for it."
The ingredients listed on the bottle remain simple (with the exception of xanthan gum, which is used to keep the oil and vinegar from separating). Another bragging point for the salad dressing is that it is low in sodium, and is MSG- and gluten-free.
"It's a zingy, vinaigrette taste," Steffen explained. "We've used it as a marinade, as a dipping sauce, in coleslaw."
The siblings have all played a role, from putting money into the startup of the business to getting the word out about "Gramma Amber's Salad Dressing" to area distributors.
"In a way, we're preserving our heritage, but we're also sharing something that a lot of people remember and love," Steffen said.