One evening in early 2017 while grilling steaks, White Bear Lake resident Linda Triplett (aka Suzy-Q) had an “aha moment.”
Deciding to add a salad to the meal, Linda dug into her trusty recipe box for an old salad dressing recipe she’d had since the early 1970s. Not only tasty on salads and fondues, it had always been “just dang good” with steak and shrimp, she said; like a marriage made in heaven.
While eating dinner that evening, Linda’s husband, “Cowboy” Mark, remarked, “This is so dang good! You need to bottle this, seriously!”
“A thought came to me that maybe I should do just that - bottle it!” Linda recalled. Though she had never canned in her life, the mother of two began researching the internet in earnest, calling regulative authorities, and learning how to safely bottle the special dressing using the warm water canning process per the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Cottage Industry Guidelines.
Longtime fans of the Mahtomedi Farmers Market, Mark and Linda inquired if there was an opening to sell their dressing there. “Yes indeed,” was the answer, “there sure is a spot for you!” Calling their special dressing “Suzy-Q’s Dang Good Western Dressing,” they created labels with a country look, and bought dozens of pint jars. That first Saturday at the Mahtomedi Farmers Market, they sold 48 jars. They were in business!
So began a homespun venture that’s still going strong. Hundreds of jars later, the Tripletts no longer use their small kitchen blender and big blue speckled canning pot on the stove. It’s a big Ninja blender now, and two turkey fryers in their garage, where Mark can “cook” 38 jars at a time. They sterilize the jars, fill them with the dressing, and then process the jars for 20 minutes to ensure purity in the canning process, in compliance with the standards of the Minnesota State Department of Agriculture. Instead of chopping onion after onion, Linda now buys big bags of chopped onions from Bix Produce Company. But they still make each pint with all the goodness of natural flavors and ingredients they’ve used since the beginning.
What’s in it? Onions, tomatoes, vinegar, white sugar, some spices, canola oil - “very basic,” Linda said. “It all blends together really beautifully.” And yes, it’s gluten free.
“I get a lot of people saying, ‘I grew up with this, we always had this at Sunday dinner . . . my dad and grandpa loved it,’” she said. Some have purchased the dressing by the case; others have come up with new uses, like mixing it in with macaroni and cheese, dabbing it on a burger, or drizzling it on walleye instead of tartar sauce.
“Sales have been so good. I’m not getting tired of it,” Linda commented. “I do when we’re making it - we’re making 12 cases right now. But we go to these markets and they’re so much fun.”
Last year, the Tripletts alternated between farmers markets in Mahtomedi and Lake Elmo before trying the White Bear Lake farmers market. Next year they’ll try Oakdale, Linda said. For the near term, they’ll have a booth at the White Bear Lake Winter Farmers Market at Tamarack Nature Center Dec. 8 and Jan. 12.
(If those dates don’t work for you, visit the website: suzyqdressing.com. Regulations prohibit shipping the dressing, but they will deliver within a few miles. Drop them an email and you’ll get a prompt response, Linda said.)
Married nearly 50 years, the Tripletts both grew up on the east side of St. Paul. After retiring from a 30-year career with the phone company, Mark drives a school bus for White Bear Lake schools and is an author, speaker, wedding officiant and photographer. Linda is a teacher’s assistant for Mahtomedi schools, working at Preschool Pals and the Early Childhood Family Education center. “We don’t believe in being bored,” she said.
For more than 20 years, the couple managed the nonprofit LNF Ministries (Love Never Fails), an organization they founded to help other bereaved parents, after the tragic death of their son, Adam, in a fatal airplane crash in 1997. With the approval of their Board of Trustees, the Tripletts closed the nonprofit in early 2018 after serving thousands of people.
The ability to connect with others is a gift and a blessing, Linda said. “I was brought up to believe in using your gifts - if you give of yourself, you get a whole lot more back.”