Sausage Gravy

Last week I posted my biscuit recipe. This week I’m going to cover the gravy that goes with those biscuits.

Gravy basically consists of four things – meat, fat, flour, and milk. The key to the recipe is having the right ratio of all those things. It’s also important to know what to do and how to fix it if your ratio goes off.

The base ingredients we begin with are the fat and the meat. You can use any fat you like – bacon fat, butter, shortening – but I use butter. The meat is usually some kind of pork sausage, but you can also use beef or any other meat you like. I used to always used chipped beef because I like the flavor and texture better than sausage, but the beef I used has become too expensive. If you do use sausage, use a quality sausage. Cheap sausage will get the job done but you have more gristle and bone chips and whatnot to deal with. You can also use shredded leftover roast beef.

Sausage and Butter
Sausage and Butter

Place the butter in a pan to melt on medium heat. I like to use a nonstick pan with high sides for this. Once the butter is melted, break up the sausage and add it into the pan.

Raw Sausage In Butter
Raw Sausage In Butter

As the sausage is cooking you can add any spices you like into it. I like to add onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper into mine. You could also used minced onions and garlic, or dehydrated minced onion. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and lightly brown.

Cooked Sausage
Cooked Sausage

Once the sausage is ready, add the flour.

Add Flour To Sausage
Add Flour To Sausage

Mix it in thoroughly to create a roux, then continue to cook and stir for about 1 minute to help get rid of the raw flour taste.

Cooked Roux
Cooked Roux

Now you’re ready for the liquid. Add in the milk and water and turn the heat down just a bit. Continue to cook and stir until the gravy thickens to the consistency you like and is hot and bubbly. Taste it a few times while it’s cooking and add more salt or pepper if needed to suit your taste.

Gravy
Gravy

If the gravy gets too thick, add a bit more water or milk. If it’s too thin, just continue to let it cook until the liquid evaporates. Never adjust it by adding more flour! That will throw off the ratio and ruin your gravy.

When it’s as thick as  you want it, remove it from the heat. Serve immediately over biscuits, toast, or whatever you like. The leftovers will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Gravy Over Biscuits
Gravy Over Biscuits

Sausage Gravy

1 stick of butter
1 pound ground sausage or other meat
Onion powder and garlic powder to taste
1/2 cup of flour
2 cups of milk
1 cup of water

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add meat and cook until cooked fully and lightly browned. Add flour and mix well, continue to cook for 1 minute. Add milk and water, continue cooking until liquid bubbles and reaches desired thickness. Serve over biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits

I am a native of New York state who moved south to escape the horrible cold winters there. When I moved to Virginia I discovered many things that were different here other than the weather. People waved at each other all over the place. That took some getting used to, as I would look at them and think, ‘Do I know that person? Why are they waving at me?’ It took me a while to figure out what Nabs were. Restaurants all over the area served biscuits. Biscuits?

Back home biscuits were something you might have with dinner, like dinner rolls. They weren’t served in most restaurants. Breakfast sandwiches came on croissants or english muffins or bagels. But in Virginia they came with fried chicken on them, or steak, and for any meal of the day. I didn’t really think much of them until I was introduced to their legendary sidekick, sausage gravy. I think gravy and biscuits are now my favorite thing about Virginia, and my favorite breakfast. I had to learn to make this wonderful meal.

I researched lots of recipes online, on TV, and from various people who lived here. I finally found a recipe that I liked, but it was still missing something. Here we have a chain of restaurants called Hardees. In the west they’re known as Carls Jr. They serve the best biscuits I’ve had, and I wanted mine to be more like those. So I tweaked my recipe and baked a lot more biscuits until I was satisfied that I had the ones I wanted. Now I’m going to share them with you!

The first step is to preheat your oven. You need a hot oven to make biscuits, at least 400 degrees. I use 450, but some people even crank it all the way up to 500.

Preheat Oven
Preheat Oven

To make this recipe, it’s helpful to have some specialized tools. A bench scraper, a biscuit cutter, and a pastry cutter are all useful, as well as a whisk.

Tools
Tools

For baking the biscuits, any sort of sheet or baking pan will do, but I prefer these half-sheet pans similar to the ones bakeries use. You can get them online or at restaurant supply stores or some wholesale clubs like Sam’s.

Half Sheet Pan
Half Sheet Pan

While the oven is heating prepare your dry ingredients. You’ll need flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Use a large bowl to mix them together.

Dry Ingredients
Dry Ingredients

I use a whisk to mix them, as this aerates the mix and helps everything distribute more evenly.

Dry Mix
Dry Mix

Everything added after this needs to be cold. The fats and the buttermilk should be chilled, and not taken from the cold until they’re ready to be added into the mix. Some recipes even use frozen butter, grated into the mix with a grater. I tried that method, but it’s more of a pain than anything else, and the butter is just as well cold as it is frozen. Refrigerated butter is just fine.

Next add the fats – butter and shortening. I also keep my shortening in the refrigerator, so it’s cold. You can use all butter or all shortening here, but I think the biscuits have the best texture and flavor when you use both.

Fats
Fats

Toss the shortening into the flour mixture, and cut the butter into small pieces to toss in.

Add Fats To Dry
Add Fats To Dry

This is where a pastry cutter shines. You can use a fork or even your fingers to mix and crumble up the fats into the flour, but it’s easiest and you get better results using a pastry cutter. If you use your fingers work quickly, because you don’t want your body heat to melt the fats.

Cut Fat Into Dry
Cut Fat Into Dry

Mix them in until the fats are in small pea-size pieces and the mix is crumbly.

Pea Sized Crumble
Pea Sized Crumble

Now it’s time to add the buttermilk. It should be cold, so I usually measure it out into a measuring cup in advance and keep it in the fridge until I’m ready for it. Add it all at once and mix it in. You can use a spoon or spatula, but it gets hard to mix with a utensil quickly, so I use my hand. You could possibly use a mixer for this, but you only need to mix until the dough comes together, which doesn’t take long at all, so I don’t bother.

Cold Buttermilk
Cold Buttermilk

The dough will be sticky, but that’s fine. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface. For this part you can either use a rolling pin or your hands. I use my hands. If you use a rolling pin, keep it well-floured so the dough doesn’t stick to it. Dust the dough with a little flour and flatten it out into a rectangle shape. Then fold one-third of it over onto the top, then the other side. Press the dough down and turn it 90 degrees. Press into a rectangle and fold over again. Repeat this about 4 or 5 times. The bench scraper makes this part easy, especially if the dough is sticking to your surface.

Fold Over Dough
Fold Over Dough

Be careful not to overwork the dough, or it will get tough. Spread it out a final time to about an inch thick. Now use your biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Do not twist the cutter when cutting, just press straight down and remove the biscuit. I use a 3-inch biscuit cutter, which I think makes the perfect size biscuits. Place each biscuit onto your baking pan. Most recipes will tell you to place the biscuits touching each other, so they hold each other up as they rise. They will come out good that way, but I don’t do that. I like mine to be a bit crispy on the outside edges, so I place them on the sheet not touching each other. Take the extra bits of dough left from cutting and mix back together and keep cutting until there is no dough left. The last bit of cuttings can probably be shaped into a biscuit without cutting. You should get 12 to 14 biscuits, depending on how large you cut them.

Biscuits Cut On Pan
Biscuits Cut On Pan

Press down on the top of each biscuit gently with your thumb to make a small impression. This will help the biscuits rise more evenly and not puff up too much. Then the part which helps make these more like Hardees biscuits. Placing them not touching on the pan was the first part. Now before they go into the oven, brush them all with melted salted butter. I only had unsalted butter on hand, so I just added a pinch of salt to my melted butter.

Brush With Butter Before Baking
Brush With Butter Before Baking

Now into the hot oven they go. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are light golden on top.

Biscuits Out Of Oven
Biscuits Out Of Oven

While they are still hot, brush them again with melted salted butter. Let them cool a bit before eating if you want to eat them still warm, or eat when cooled. You can place them into sealed bags and freeze them for later. They freeze well and when thawed taste just as good as when they came out of the oven. I had to have one still warm with butter on it. Yum!

Finished Biscuits
Finished Biscuits

If you like a more traditional fluffy biscuit that’s not so crispy on the outside, Place the biscuits touching on the pan, and brush with butter only after they’ve baked. Either way these biscuits are delicious. The recipe makes 12-14 biscuits, depending on how large you cut them, but you can make multiple batches to freeze if you like.

Buttermilk Biscuits

4 cups of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt like kosher
1/2 stick of butter, cold
4 tablespoons of shortening, cold
2 cups of buttermilk, chilled
Additional butter melted for brushing biscuits
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In  large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, mix the fats into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. If you use your fingers work quickly so the fats don’t melt.

Pour in the cold buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface , dust the top with flour, and gently press the dough out and fold over on top of itself 5 or 6 times. Press out to 1 inch thick and cut biscuits. Place on baking sheet just touching each other. Bake until tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12-14 biscuits.

(See description above for more tips and variations)

Veggie Refrigerator Pickle

My husband loves pickles and pickled vegetables of all kinds. Once we started having a bounty of cucumbers and peppers, we had to decide what to do with them. This quick and easy refrigerator pickle recipe to the rescue. You can use any vegetables you like in this recipe, you don’t have to have sterilized equipment and canners. We just used old pickle jars from the store that were washed and dried thoroughly. You stash them in your fridge for a few days, and they’re ready to eat.

First we start with the veggies. We used a mix of peppers, cucumbers, onions, cauliflower, celery, and carrots, but use whatever you have or like pickled.

Veggies
Veggies

We used a green bell pepper, a red hungarian hot wax pepper, and a jalapeno. Next up are the spices. Black peppercorns, homegrown ground cayenne powder, dill, coriander, mustard seed and celery seed.

Spices
Spices

Now, just chop your veggies up into whatever size pieces you want. Keep in mind you need to pack these into jars, and eat them easily, so they should be in some sort of bite-sized pieces easy to pack into a jar. Here you can see all the veggies chopped into the various shapes and sizes we chose.

Chopped Veggies
Chopped Veggies

Add your water, vinegar, sugar and garlic into a pot to boil.

Garlic and Vinegar
Garlic and Vinegar

When it’s done, separate the garlic and spices into your jars, with a little of the hot liquid to help the powders dissolve.

Spices In Jar
Spices In Jar

Now just pack your jars full with the veggies. Make sure you get some of each veggie into each jar. If you have too many veggies and end up with a few left over, just use them on pizza or in a salad.

Stuffing Jars
Stuffing Jars

Then fill each jar with the vinegar solution. Leave a little space at the top, but you don’t need much. If you end up not having enough solution, just make another half or whole batch of the vinegar, water and sugar solution and keep filling.

Filled Jars
Filled Jars

Let the jars cool, then put on the lids and pop them into the fridge. You can eat them in just a few hours, but it’s better to let them sit for at least 2 days before eating them. They’ll stay good for up to 3 months.

Finished Pickle
Finished Pickle

Refrigerator Veggie Pickle

4 cups of water
2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 head of garlic, 10-12 cloves, cut in half
Several sprigs of fresh dill, or a pinch of ground dill per jar
1 teaspoon of celery seed
1 teaspoon of coriander seed
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of pink peppercorns (optional)
A pinch of fresh ground cayenne per jar (optional)
2 cucumbers sliced into rounds, spears or other shape you prefer
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds and/or sticks
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 hot hungarian wax pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small head of cauliflower

You can use any combination of vegetables you like to equivalent amounts of those given. This is the combination we like to use. You can also substitute ground versions of any whole spices if you don’t have the whole versions.

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil once more, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.

In jars of your choice (we used 4 24-ounce jars, which would be equivalent to 6 pints or 3 quarts if you use mason jars) place a few sprigs or a pinch of dill in each jar. Divide the spices equally between the jars. Remove the garlic from the brine and divide among the jars. Add a bit of the brine to each jar to help dissolve any ground spices used. Then pack the jars full of vegetables. The jars should be tightly stuffed.

Bring the brine back to a boil, then pour it over the vegetables to fill the jars. If you end up not having enough brine to fill all the jars, prepare another half batch using only water, vinegar, and salt. Boil the extra brine and fill the jars.

Let the jars cool on the counter uncovered. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate. You can eat them within a few hours, but they are best if left for a couple of days before eating. They’ll keep in the fridge for up to three months. Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts.

Spaghetti Sauce

My husband loves spaghetti. So much so that I think he would eat it every day if he could. My mom would make hers with meatballs that had been slow-simmered in the sauce. Today I am going to cover the sauce portion of the recipe, meatballs will be another post at some point in the future.

The ingredients for this recipe are simple. Stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and a few herbs and spices. Ideally, I’d be wanting to use tomato products from the garden, but I don’t have any this year, so canned will do. Please note that I am making a DOUBLE batch in my photos, so double the recipe at the end if you want to match the photos.

Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients
Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients

The first step, and for me usually the worst, is chopping up the onion. I must be one of those people overly-sensitive to onions, because I can’t cut one without tearing so bad that I can’t see, necessitating multiple pauses to get away from the onion and clean up my eyes with water and paper towels. I may get some of those swim goggles to try wearing for chopping. I may look ridiculous, but if it helps me to see….

Chopping Onion
Chopping Onion

Once the eye-burning part is over, the recipe goes together pretty easily. Place your olive oil in a pot, and add the onion and garlic. I like to use a non-stick pot for making this sauce, it can stick and burn on the bottom otherwise if you’re not careful.

Onion and Garlic in Oil
Onion and Garlic in Oil

Set your heat to about medium and cook and stir the aromatics until they are translucent. All recipes say that, but I’ve never really figured out what translucent means. I just cook them until they turn the color of the oil, soften a little bit, and smell really good, maybe 5 minutes or so. If the garlic starts to brown, it’s time to move on.

Cooked Onions
Cooked Onions

Next add all the tomato ingredients.

Tomatoes Added
Tomatoes Added

Next up are the herbs. I usually add a handful each of dried basil and parsley flakes per batch. (See my chicken soup post about how I measure by handful.) At this point you can add any additional herbs or veggies you might like to your sauce, like oregano, mushrooms, etc.

Herbs Added
Herbs Added

Stir everything together so it’s smooth. At this point I also add salt and sugar, and sometimes some grated parmesan cheese. Then add water to the sauce, enough so the sauce is just a tad runny. As the sauce cooks it will thicken, so if you don’t add water you’ll have paste at the end. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the sauce is the consistency you want. Mine averages around 40 minutes.

Cover and Simmer
Cover and Simmer

While the sauce is simmering, you can bring another pot of water to a boil for your pasta. I normally use regular spaghetti noodles, and I boil mine for about 10 minutes. I really don’t like al-dente pasta, so I tend to overcook mine just a bit, but I like it that way.

Boiled Pasta
Boiled Pasta

Some recipes will have you add oil or salt to the pasta water, and I’ve tried that but never noticed any difference in the texture or taste of my pasta, and it never seemed ot help with sitcking, so I don’t bother. I use a metal pot and stir the pasta frequently with tongs while it cooks, and that’s the only way I’ve found to really stop sticking. Put some pasta on a plate, top with sauce and cheese, and serve with some sort of bread. I prefer a nice italian or french bread with mine, if I have any. Garlic Texas toast is nice, too.

Finished Spagetti
Finished Spagetti

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 16-ounce can of stewed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon each dried basil and parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of sugar, or to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil and saute onion and garlic until just soft but not brown. You can use onions, mushrooms, peppers, or any other vegetables as desired as well. Add all tomato ingredients and mix smooth while heating. Add herbs as desired. Add water until sauce is just shy of thick. Add salt and sugar to taste. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes and serve over pasta. Serves 6-8.