Appalachian Food

Making Gravy

gravy cooking on stove

Come mealtime one would often find gravy on Granny’s kitchen table when I was a growing up. She fixed sausage or bacon gravy to go with biscuits. And if I was lucky she made chocolate gravy which she and I both adored. The boys and Pap didn’t care for it at all.

With supper Granny would make cornmeal gravy which I never liked, but love today and she often make cube steak with gravy.

Gravy is easy to make, but can be intimidating for the novice cook. It took me a long time to get comfortable with making gravy, but once I did I wondered why I ever fretted over it in the first place.

Granny used milk with all the gravies she made except for chocolate gravy. Some folks use water, broth, or cream.

I’ve heard folks say they didn’t care for gravy made from bacon grease at all, but we like it as good as gravy made from sausage grease.

Once I’ve fried my sausage or bacon I add flour to the hot pan and let it cook for a couple of minutes while stirring constantly. Getting all the little bits of cooked on meat scraped up really helps the flavor of your gravy. I season with salt and pepper and then I start adding milk to the pan. I usually add about a cup and a half of milk to start with, of course that would need to be adjusted to the amount of grease you have. I like my gravy on the thin side so as after it cooks about five minutes if I need to adjust the thickness I add a little more milk to thin it out.

It was only as an adult that I heard folks call the type of gravy I make milk gravy. When I first came across the term I wondered why anyone would thicken milk to use as gravy. Of course I soon realized they too used grease as the base of gravy, but were simply calling it by the liquid they used.

The Deer Hunter likes to make gravy when he fries deer meat, but I don’t think it has quite the flavor of sausage or bacon gravy. Although it may simply be that I enjoy the other gravies more because that’s what I grew up eating.


Last night’s video: A Traditional Appalachian Breakfast and How to Make Sausage Milk Gravy & Fried Apples.

Tipper

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    Rudy Vickery
    December 31, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    If ya didn’t grow up “stirring the gravy”, ya missed out. Always good on biscuits, cubed steak & fried chicken. It’s good on white rice too. My favorite way to eat gravy is biscuits n gravy, fatback & sweet, homegrown cantaloupe with a big glass of cold well water or sweet tea. Hard to beat good well water. The secret to a good, sweet tea starts with good well water.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    December 7, 2021 at 10:43 am

    My husband’s mother came from a coal-mining family in Southeast Kentucky. His grandmother made the best gravy ever. His mother made good gravy, too (but Granny’s was always best). Over the last 37 years I’ve tried and tried to make gravy as good as Granny, but I just don’t have the knack. I think it might have been the sausage. I’m pretty sure the sausage she had was from a local pig farmer. She used evaporated milk and water. I guess fresh milk wasn’t as easy to keep. I’ll keep trying, but I just know that it’ll be good – just not as good as Granny’s.

  • Reply
    Judy Lee Green
    December 7, 2021 at 3:52 am

    I make gravy like this. My family has always called it sawmill gravy. Do

  • Reply
    DonInKansas
    December 6, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    We ate a lot of gravy… milk gravy with fried meats, brown gravy with roasted meats. I love both. In my family our sausage gravy was made with the sausage fried in patties, then the gravy made from the grease left in the pan. Our milk gravy (we also called it white gravy) was made with the drippings from fried meats (chicken, pork chops, rabbit, quail, dove, venison, any kind of floured and fried meats). More flour would be added, then when browned, Mama or Grandma would add milk and stir, stir, stir, adding more milk to get it the right consistancy, we usually liked it on the thin side, too. We ate it with biscuits, over taters, you name it. It was all good to me!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 6, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    Now that is an incredible meal! Please call me the next time and I’ll be right over.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    December 6, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    I can make gravy, but my husband makes the best sausage gravy, not to mention milk gravy. My Mama used to make cube steak and gravy and it was so good.

  • Reply
    Christine
    December 6, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    I enjoy different gravy flavors, but sausage gravy is my favorite. I will say I’ve never tried Chocolate gravy. I’ve seen your video on how to make it but haven’t tried it yet.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    December 6, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    Well, I might as well tell you our family tale about gravy.
    Men in our Va. Coalfields all made good gravy. My daddy made the cream gravy about every day while mommy made the biscuits. She never rolled and cut biscuits, just added the Crisco to a well in a bowl of White Lilly self rising flour, poured in buttermilk or sweet milk, mixed it with just her fingers, then patted out perfect biscuits.
    Daddy’s gravy was always the same…and always good, not too dark . I heard once that Grand pa Johnny had taught him to cook. He was raised by this grand pa…a hard old mountain man known for trading about everything and making good moonshine.
    It was that occupation that sent him out of our mountains during Prohibition…when he was sentenced to a year and a day in the federal prison in Georgia .
    Well it was told that on the first night there at supper Grandpa asked what that sloppy stuff was on them taters…why it’s gravy, they said. This ain’t no gravy he told the kitchen workers…gravy is made with milk, served for breakfast. No, gravy is brown and is for supper. But the kitchen worker liked the idea of morning gravy so the kitchen asked grandpa to teach them how he made it in Virginia. So he did.
    Well his gravy was a hit …and made them powdered eggs pretty good . He also made good friends of all the kitchen workers…one fellow named Henry especially.
    So a yr. went by , Grandpa Johnny came home and went back to what he knew ….and Henry got a job in a resturant…a restaurant that was struggling to make it …until Henry told the owners they should start making breakfast daily. He told them he had a sure fire winner…something called milk gravy. He made it, everyone loved it , the business was saved . In fact , Henry became part owner of that place and it got pretty well known for breakfast…that place is now called HARDEE’S.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      December 6, 2021 at 7:26 pm

      Kat-thank you for sharing the story!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 6, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    I read all the comments so far and don’t think I read anything about the best breakfast combo ever created, fried taters and gravy! You can add eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bologna or whatever else you choose but a plain plateful of golden brown sliced and fried taters completely covered with milk gravy is hard, if not impossible, to beat!

  • Reply
    Robert
    December 6, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Tipper, you outdo yourself daily! Thank you!

    I’d like to ask you to do 2 things:
    1) give us a recipe for chocolate gravy (it’s a thing I’d never even heard of before your vlog)
    2) tell us where you got that gravy/saute stirring gadget (I can’t find one online)

    Blessings to all . . .

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    December 6, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    Tipper,
    Your comments on cornmeal gravy brought this memory back to my mind.
    Living in the country and being quite a distance from the food market, “Super Market” was the name at that time, we normally bought groceries once per week and that was on Friday. There were times when Mom would run out of flour on Thursday, and we would have cornmeal gravy and cornbread for breakfast on Friday morning. I did not like that at the time, but after two years in DC and two years in the U. S. Army, the first thing I asked Mom to fix, upon arriving home for a visit, was cornmeal gravy and a pone of cornbread.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    December 6, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    I love milk gravy made with sausage, bacon, chicken or pork chops and red eye gravy made with cured ham. Making gravy is like a lot of things, after doing it for a long time you just “know” how.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    December 6, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    Tipper, this is so timely. After quite awhile I made sausage gravy for our breakfast of sausage, grits, biscuits and gravy this morning. It sure was good! As a little girl I always wanted to help my Grandma cook. When I got tall enough to stir the gravy that was my job. I was so proud to help Grandma. Before I got tall enough for that job I was assigned to watch the biscuits in her oven so they wouldn’t get too brown or burn. Now I know that Grandma had known all along when the biscuits got just right, and she was used to stirring her gravy while she prepared the other breakfast foods, but she let me “help.” She let me learn. She encouraged me. She let me feel like I was contributing to the preparation of breakfast. She never made me feel like I was just in the way, even though in hindsight I guess I was, but these are some of the sweetest memories of my childhood. Today I watched you and your daughters on You Tube as they quizzed you on your Appalachian Vocabulary! It was delightful! I knew quite a few of the definitions. To hear the fun and banter among the twins was so good that I was laughing out loud and I’m still smiling as I type this to you. Keep on sharing your beautiful lives with us. I love you dearly, my precious friend that I haven’t met in person yet. May God continue to bless you all. Your friend, Barbara

  • Reply
    Gigi
    December 6, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Growing up, my dad was the master at gravy making. Momma did the best biscuits and daddy did the best gravy. Then he started teaching me how to make it. The stove was taller than me so I had to stand in a chair to stir the gravy. I will always remember that. I love it but can’t eat it no more. Maybe once in a blue moon.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    December 6, 2021 at 10:34 am

    I just get the packages at the store now. That makes enough gravy for two meals for me.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    December 6, 2021 at 10:27 am

    There is nothing more Appalachian than the discussion of what we called cream gravy or just gravy in general. I would not touch it as a child, and I remember thinking it just looked gross. Now wouldn’t you know, I finally learned to love this frugal and easy dish right when I have to limit it because of health reasons.

    My Mom was the queen of the gravy makers and would make gravy out of anything. Her specialty was cream gravy. Maybe the reason it was called cream gravy is because she always used evaporated milk mixed with water to make the morning gravy. She browned the flour to a light tan color before proceeding, and it gave it a different taste. Gravy was made when pork chops fried, chicken fried or baked, fried “bucket” steak or fried ham. Many years ago, I sat down to squirrel gravy at my aunt’s house, and she doled it out like pure gold. I passed on that! Mom often rolled slices of fat back in flour and fried them crispy, and then made gravy in the drippings. I now must resort to egg whites fried in olive oil with dry toast, but “pig out” on gravy and biscuits every week or two. My doc says I am doing great!

  • Reply
    Diana Turner
    December 6, 2021 at 10:17 am

    I agree with you, making gravy IS intimidating, but it comes with practice. Like another post, I’ve never heard of cornmeal gravy. But chocolate gravy, that brings back memories of visiting cousins in Kentucky!

  • Reply
    Betty C Ledwith
    December 6, 2021 at 10:13 am

    My mom used to make coffee gravy. She would take the used coffee grinds, pour hot water over them, drained some into the frying pan and then would add some flour and a little milk. It was very good and I still make some myself 80 years later.

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney
      December 6, 2021 at 2:46 pm

      Betty,
      This sounds like some version of “Red Eye Gravy”?

  • Reply
    Patricia Wilson
    December 6, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Gravy and pie crust – two things my mother excelled at that I still have not mastered. At my age, I don’t think there’s much hope! You didn’t mention giblet gravy – that’s one variety that my elementary school cafeteria ruined for me 😉 I don’t miss the gravy unless I am eating chicken fried steak – gotta have the peppered white gravy for that – but I eat pie crust only if I need to avoid hurting the pie maker’s feelings. I know Mama used lard rather than shortening, but even my efforts using lard have fallen short of her tender, flaky perfection. It was even better in the apricot fried pies that I always chose over cake for my birthday.

  • Reply
    Kimberly H. Glenn
    December 6, 2021 at 9:57 am

    Loved watching you cook breakfast last night. Made me so hungry!

  • Reply
    dee
    December 6, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Your Milk Gravy cooking on the stove looks near like my Mother’s. It took me some big mistakes in getting my grease and flour browned correctly adding S & P in the flour, and slowly adding milk. My sons can make Milk Gravy just as good as their Grandmother. We usually cook sausage in the iron skillet and using that same skillet make our roux and slowly add the milk stirring until it thickens. O,h my goodness it sure is great over biscuits!!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    December 6, 2021 at 9:25 am

    When I was growing up, we had Mom’s no recipe gravy every morning and sometimes for supper. It was milk gravy often made with canned cream mixed with water. Mom made cornmeal gravy to serve with fried taters if we didn’t have chicken for supper. My ex husband could eat gravy three times a day made exactly like you make yours. He pouted, got mad, and was just downright miserable (his normal self) when we went on a fishing trip in MN and he couldn’t find a restaurant that served biscuits and gravy. He thought it was crazy that folks ate toast and pancakes for breakfast.

  • Reply
    Randy
    December 6, 2021 at 8:49 am

    My favorite gravy is gravy made from fried fatback grease. When growing up, we would often eat this along with homemade biscuits during the week for breakfast. Mother along with Daddy would get up early enough to cook this before leaving for school or Daddy going to work. Having a good home grown cantaloupe to eat with this was even better. I don’t know where this name came from but they called it hunky doo gravy.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 6, 2021 at 8:14 am

    I like your cooking posts and the comments but for an unusual reason. First of all I am not a cook. But your posts and the comments to me are the description of a skill and how it develops. Along the way, I was taught skill is developed by “Tell them how. Show them how. Let them do it.” The parts of developing cooking skill fit somewhere within those three.

    i am intrigued by how cooking is so much about proportion. A recipe is a template to get “good” proportions that work every time and also guide the timing to avoid over or under. But in day-to-day life so many things affect proportions; how many people, how much of the least ingredient is on hand and will constrain the whole, how much ‘starter’ ingredient to be proportioned to and so on. A skilled cook does all that in their head and ‘on the fly’, making it look easy. And they likely would find it hard to describe the process, possibly falling back on ‘you just know’.

    It is that ‘just knowing’ that intrigues me. How in the world does anybody get to where they just know without knowing how they know? Closest I can come is identifying trees. I don’t really know all the things I consider. I discovered once, accidentally, that the lichens on the bark make a difference but I had had no idea of that until then. My hat is off to anybody who makes something complex look simple and easy.

  • Reply
    KW
    December 6, 2021 at 8:10 am

    My husband makes me breakfast every morning – he makes the best gravy. His favorite liquid to use is homemade chicken stock. I make homemade buttermilk biscuits and he provides the gravy ~ a match made in heaven : )

  • Reply
    OpenTheDoor
    December 6, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Growing up my two older sisters never showed any desire or affinity for cooking.
    I became Moms sous chef, which meant chopped onions, salad, stirring the gravy and any other victuals that required undivided attention, my marching orders.
    As a result, I learned early about gravy, and cooking. Mom was just a so-so cook but it started something I enjoy to this day.
    Anytime there is a “gathering” I’m enlisted to help, top of my list of to do, yep, gravy.
    I’m getting too old to swing the 12 inch cast iron fry pan, need two hands now, still love to cook, it’s a labor of love.
    Oh, chocklet gravy, I can leave it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 6, 2021 at 7:57 am

    On Saturday morning when I got off work we used to pile in the car and head back home. We managed to time it so that everybody was hungry just about when we topped Old Fort Mountain. There wasn’t a wide choice of eating places open but we knew who would be and that’s where we were headed. Hardee’s in Black Mountain! They had the best sausage gravy in the world! Other Hardees locations had sausage gravy with its barely perceptible pieces of sausage. This one had pieces as big as your pinkie. And it tasted like the sausage my Grammaw used to make. I would get two biscuits with sausage gravy and an extra order of gravy. That would last me all weekend

  • Reply
    Margie G for got no good gravy
    December 6, 2021 at 7:38 am

    You talk about gravy making with ease, but for me it’s always been a challenge. I watch, listen and pay attention but my gravy is pretty terrible! With your expertise, I may try again some day. Lol. Out of all mommy’s wonderful food, gravy has to be on the top of my fond food memories. She’d probably roll over if she knew I couldn’t make good gravy!

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    December 6, 2021 at 7:29 am

    I like many kinds of gravy and didn’t think about the types until reading all the comments. Growing up we had sausage or bacon gravy almost every morning and for dinner or supper we sometimes had meal gravy. During hunting season we often had squirrel, grouse, quail, or rabbit gravy for dinner or supper. I almost forgot another favorite gravy, chicken gravy. My wife and I hardly ever eat gravy anymore. She is on a restricted diet and I keep my weight below 200 lbs by not eating much of my favorite fattening foods.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    December 6, 2021 at 6:44 am

    Biscuits and gravy makes a mighty fine breakfast. I like milk gravy that is brown. Some folks don’t properly brown their roux, and make a pale, pasty gravy that isn’t appealing to me. My grandmother made the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever eaten.

  • Reply
    Stephen Greenfield
    December 6, 2021 at 6:40 am

    What is cornmeal gravy? I’ve had ‘milk gravy’ for 69 years, but never heard of cornmeal gravy. I’d certainly give it a try.

    I so enjoy your daily emails, blog, and music. You are blessed (as we all are).

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    December 6, 2021 at 6:38 am

    I was fortunate to grow up watching my granny cook and was especially more interested in breakfast. I wasn’t allowed to help but seeing her roll out and cut the biscuits and hear and smell the bacon and sausage sizzling in her cast iron pans brings back lots of memories. She never had a cookbook that I could remember or find after she passed but I give her the credit for me being able to eventually recreate the recipes we all loved so much. While sausage gravy is fine, I much more prefer bacon gravy. Here in Texas gravy is called either brown or cream. Obviously, cream is the milk gravy. I always save my bacon grease when I don’t make gravy which isn’t that often as my bride doesn’t want all the extra cholesterol and calories that it creates. So, I can make gravy without having to cook the bacon anytime I want.

  • Reply
    Matt Laminack
    December 6, 2021 at 6:26 am

    My mother always fried cubed deer meat in bacon grease and made gravy with that. It did give the gravy a bit of a gamey taste but I still liked it. My Pawpaw always made coffee gravy, or red eye gravy. I don’t think I’ve had a gravy I didn’t like.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 6, 2021 at 6:20 am

    ” THIN GRAVY” , my husband’s all time favorite, but it took me a while to learn how to make it and still to this day sometimes you can cut it with a knife it gets so thick. We’ve been married for more than 53 years so I ‘ve many years to practice but still , sometimes I have to add a little more milk or water to thin it out LOL

  • Reply
    Donna Sue
    December 6, 2021 at 5:02 am

    I enjoyed reading your post here this morning. I grew up with milk gravy, too, and it is the kind I prefer. (I have never had chocolate gravy —- yet!) I like my gravy thicker than thin, but runny enough to pour easier than just spooned on. I think milk gives the gravy a fuller feeling than water used as the liquid. I love gravy on meat and whatever your starch/carb is for the meal (potato, bread, quinoa, etc). So I always make a lot of gravy. When I first started cooking, gravy intimidated me, but like everything in life, after the first couple times of doing something new – you get to be old hat at it and then can figure out any problems that might happen as they come up. When I first started cooking, I could not imagine just throwing anything into a pan and making it turn out yummy. I had to follow a recipe exactly as written, with no substitutes. If the recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons and I only had 1 1/4, seriously – I wouldn’t make the recipe anyways. I was afraid that 1/4 tsp difference would destroy the whole thing. I assure you, I am not that way anymore! Now I just use a recipe as a general blueprint/idea, and do whatever I want with it measurement and ingredient wise. I loved your cooking breakfast video last night! You did an excellent, and interesting, job!! Thank you!

    Donna. : )

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