Most of us remember the gravies from our grandmothers’ tables. Somehow gravy just isn’t the same anymore. Everywhere you go you see “gravy mixes”, which leave a lot to be desired when it comes to taste. This is sad because homemade gravy is one of the most frugal recipes you can find, and even though it is very cheap, it generally tastes better than the most expensive mix in the supermarket. Gravy over toast makes a frugal but filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Leftover gravy can be combined with cooked pasta and vegetables, or hamburger and pasta for your own homemade “hamburger helper” (which is all that hamburger helper is – pasta and gravy).
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The Basic Rule of Thumb for Gravy:A tasty gravy has oil, flavored liquid, and something to thicken the liquid:Thin gravy: 1 tbsp oil or butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1 cup liquid.Medium gravy: 2 tbsp oil or butter, 2 tbsp flour, 1 cup liquidThick: 1/4 cup oil or butter, 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup milk
Roux Rules:Put the oil in a pan, add the flour to it, and stir it so the flour and butter or oil are thoroughly mixed. This mixture of oil and flour is known in the trade as the ROUX, which is pronounced ROO. Generally, for a white sauce, let the roux bubble over medium heat for about a minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add milk, turn heat back on, stir until thickened. Of the thin, medium, and thick gravies, the consistency I like best is when I use 2 tablespoons of oil or butter and 2 tablespoons flour to make the roux to thicken one cup of liquid.Liquid. A liquid that is full of flavor will make a delicious gravy. Use your own homemade stocks or broth/juices from roasts or hams. If you are frying meat, you can deglaze the pan (pour water into the hot pan and stir vigorously so the flavor and bits of food are combined with the water) and make the gravy with the pan water. Milk is used for cream gravies like sausage and bacon. In a pinch, you can make a broth with bouillon and use that to make gravy.
Oil, butter, meat fats.
If you use butter, cook the roux at a lower temperature so that the butter itself doesn’t burn. If you like a darker roux, it is better to use oil as a dark butter roux can take a long time. Olive oil and coconut oil are the oils I use in making roux, plus meat fats from ham, bacon, sausage, or roast. Always save the fat from meats that you cook, keep the fat you drain in a jar in the refrigerator so you always have some flavorful fat for gravy.
Microwave gravy? Yes, you can make roux in a microwave.
Oven roux? Yes you can make roux in an oven.
Freezing Roux? Yes, you can freeze roux. Making it is not complicated, but can be time consuming. So make a bunch, and freeze it in whatever portions you typically use to make gravy. For my crew of five, I typically make a quart of gravy, which will take a half cup of flour and a half cup of fat, so I freeze it in 3/4 cup portions (1/2 cup flour + 1/2 cup oil = about 3/4 cup more or less). I use half pint canning jars.
Measure! It is best to measure the liquid, oil, and flour. Yes, your grandmother did it by sight and yes you will eventually be able to do this too, but probably not at first. With these basic principles in mind, let’s look at these gravy recipes. All of them are given as 2 cup final quantity.Adding extra flavor to Gravies.
You can always add extra flavor to gravies. Before adding the flour to the oil, add some sliced/chopped garlic, onions or shallots, and a chopped fresh or dried pepper. We especially like chipotle peppers in brown gravy. Sometimes we add dried mixed “Italian herbs” like oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme, and of course black pepper. The amount of salt a gravy requires depends on the taste of the eaters. Be wary of adding too much salt.Country Brown Gravies:
With a simple white sauce, you don’t let the flour brown. You saute it for just a bit and then add the milk. But with true country gravy, you want to let the flour brown. One of the old names for country gravy is “scorch gravy”, and that’s because you brown the flour right to the point where a bit of it is turning from brown to black BUT before it actually burns. Once you get to that point, you need to move fast – turn off the fire, add the liquid all at once, and stir like crazy, continuing to stir frequently as you turn the fire back on and cook it until it thickens to the consistency you want. Because deciding how much “brown” is enough is such a judgment call, you may not want to go that far in the beginning, only sauteeing the flour until it is a light brown. You need to stir the roux constantly when you cook it.
After you have made gravy maybe 50 times, you will develop your own eye for how dark you will like the roux. Note that stirring “Constantly” means just that. Don’t stop! Don’t splatter any on you or anyone standing close by, because it is EXTREMELY hot and can raise a blister faster than you can wipe it off.Sausage Gravy
Crumble sausage in a pan (say 1/8th lb for 2 cups gravy) and fry until done. Remove sausage and measure the fat in the pan, adding more oil or butter to make a total of 4 tablespoons. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and saute until the flour is a light brown. Turn off the burner. Add 2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk, 1 cup water) and mix vigorously. Turn the burner back on, add the
fried sausage to the gravy, continue to stir until the gravy thickens to your desired consistency.
Pork Chop or Sliced Ham Gravy
Fry the pork chops or sliced ham in one pan. Take out of pan and set aside on a plate. In a second pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter or put 4 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add 4 tablespoons flour, and saute until the flour is a beautiful chocolate brown color. Turn the fire back on under the pork chop pan and heat it up if it has cooled down. When it is hot, pour 2 cups water on it and stir/scrape the pan vigorously to deglaze it and mix the little flavored bits (known in the trade as the fond) with the water. Add this richly flavored water to the bubbling roux.Bacon Gravy
Fry your bacon and measure 4 tablespoons of the fat into the gravy pan. Add 4 tablespoons of flour, fry until light brown. Add 2 cups of milk, or 1 cup milk and 1 cup water, stir until thickened to desired consistency.Pot Roast or Ham Gravy
This is the traditional brown gravy you make from the juices of a pot roast or a whole ham cooked in your oven or in a crockpot. Pour the juices/broth into a container and skim the fat off the top. Put 4 tablespoons of the fat into a pan, add 4 tablespoons flour, and saute until the flour is medium to dark brown. Pour the broth into the roux, stirring constantly, turn the burner back on and continue stirring until it thickens to the desired consistency. If you don’t have enough broth, you can add water to make the desired amount of liquid.
Brown Gravy without the Roast . . . If you have some frozen or left over beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock), use that as the liquid and make gravy without having to make a roast. If you have no homemade broths, you can make the pot roast/ham gravy recipe above and use bouillon for the liquid. I usually use twice the recommended amount of bouillon to give the gravy more authority.
Fry hamburger, drain fat, measure back into meat 2 tbsp of hamburger fat, add 2 tbsp. flour, stir. If you are going to make a cream gravy, make a very light brown roux and use 1 cup milk. If you want a brown beef gravy, make a darker brown roux and add 1 cup beef stock instead of milk. Cook until thickened. Serve over rice, toast, or biscuits.
When Gravy Goes Wrong. . . The most common problem with gravy is that it doesn’t get thick enough. If this happens to you, take an empty jar (like a peanut butter jar), add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons flour. Put the jar lid on and shake it vigorously to mix the flour and the water. If there are any blobs of flour on top of the water, skim them off (or pour through a strainer). Add a little bit of this mixture to the bubbling gravy and stir, keep doing this until it thickens to the desired consistency.
OTHER SAUCE/GRAVY IDEAS:White Sauce: Use milk for the liquid, with a dash of salt and pepper.Cheese sauce: To 1 cup white sauce, add 1/4 tsp dry mustard and ½ cup grated cheese.Mushroom sauce: Saute 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 1 tsp grated onion in the butter or oil for white sauce, then proceed as you would to make white sauce.Red Sauce: To 1 cup white sauce, add 3 tbsp tomato sauce.Veloute sauce: Same as white sauce, only use beef or chicken or vegetable broth in place of milk. This is your basic pot roast gravy with a French name.Mornay sauce: To Veloute sauce, add 1 cup milk, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1 cup grated cheese.Tomato Mushroom: Fry one strip of sliced bacon, add 1 tbsp flour, 1-1/2 tsp sugar, and a dash of salt. Cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup tomato juice or juice from canned tomatoes. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add about ½ cup sauteed mushrooms.
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