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Monday, January 24, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Grandma Betty's Square Bottle Dressing

At Christmas time, I wrote about receiving my in-law's family cookbook. You know, the one with all the tattered and stained pages, held together with a rubber band, representing the family's food traditions throughout the years. I've been blessed to receive many of my family's heirloom recipe collections. Up till now, I've just tried to keep them safe. I do like to read through them from time to time, but I haven't really dug in and started cooking. Part of the reason is that the recipes are often little more than descriptive paragraphs or ingredient lists. Somehow the two don't often appear simultaneously for the same recipe.

I decided to start with something I know. I also know that all my relatives in SoCal and Oregon will appreciate getting some of these recipes that we all remember. Square Bottle Dressing is a French dressing made with Campbell's Tomato Soup. I'm not sure how this recipe came into the family, but my Grandma Betty and Pappy had it all the time. It's heavy on oil, sugar and salt, but it became almost a family joke that you don't mess with the recipe. If you change it, it won't taste the same. It came to be called Square Bottle Dressing because of the bottle. It's a cool old bottle with a mettle screw top. Each side has a fleur de lis design. The square bottle currently lives at my house because I've been refilling it.

We discovered one of our favorite uses for this sauce by accident. During the summer, one of our favorite quick weeknight meals is sliced tri-tip picked up from one of our neighborhood grills, served along side fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, some of that tangy dressing gets on your tri-tip. Yum!

What you see above is tonight's dinner. It's a simple salad with butter lettuce, parsley, avocado, grated carrot, shrimp, hard boiled egg and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.
Here is the text that I found in Pappy's cook book. It looks like this book started out when Pappy was a hotel restaurant chef. There are many recipes for great big quantities. I can see the additions that Grandma Betty made. Grandma has a very even cursive hand. She still has better handwriting than most people I know. Even though we knew we could never change this recipe, it's clear that Grandma Betty did. The original calls for 2 cups of oil and only 1/2 cup of sugar. She replaced fresh onion and garlic with dried. I've stayed true to Grandma's recipe except for the reduction of salt. I suggest you start with 2 teaspoons of salt and taste before you add the third.

Grandma Betty's Square Bottle Dressing
1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
1 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
3 tsp. salt (or 2)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. dried minced onions

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and thick.


  1. If only I'd had Pappy's book when I was still cooking for Cloyne or Kingman!