Cool Ranch Doritos were introduced to an unsuspecting American public in 1986 and have been a best seller ever since (in spite of those awful Jay Leno commercials). Thirty-odd years later there you can find ranch-flavored anything. There’s a local company that sells ranch-flavored crickets, so I really do mean everything. But in the late 1980s, when the good women of St. Patrick Parish compiled their cookbook, Cool Ranch Doritos were pretty much the only game in town. Hence not one but two different recipes for homebrew ranch-flavored oyster crackers.
Now normally a recipe for a dressed-up snack cracker wouldn’t have caught my eye, but the two recipes come one right after the other: “Oyster Crackers” by one Mrs. S., and “Oyster Snack Crackers” by one Mrs. P. The recipes are substantially similar: both are little more than oyster crackers tossed with ranch dressing mix, spices, and a healthy dose of vegetable oil, with the key difference being the “secret spices”. And my mind conjured up an imaginary competition between Mrs. S. and Mrs. P., vying for the best snack cracker. I made up stories in my mind about the two of them placing their cracker bowls side by side at church functions and watching to see which their fellow parishioners preferred. Now both of these women are still alive as of this writing and may not appreciate me projecting such things upon them, but the story amused me so much that I couldn’t get the crackers out of my head.
The original recipes both use a packet of ranch dressing mix to 2 packages of oyster crackers, plus a combination of dill weed, garlic powder, and/or lemon pepper. Dill weed would have made for a pretty cracker but doesn’t add a whole lot of flavor, and most lemon pepper blends include salt on top of already salted oyster crackers. I’ve opted instead for the Middle Eastern spice sumac, which provides a nice citrusy kick without the extra salt and adds a lovely purplish-red hue to the whole affair. Dried lemon peel would be a suitable alternative if you can’t find sumac. I’ve also backed off on the vegetable oil, which makes for a less greasy cracker and keeps the mixture from turning soggy.
- Pour crackers and spices into a large plastic ziploc bag. Seal the bag and shake a few times.
- Add the oil to the bag. Seal and shake vigorously for one minute until crackers are coated uniformly.
- Store in an airtight container.