My grandmother made biscuits and gravy every day of her life. Well, she certainly made it every day of mine. To this day, I cannot resist the lure of truly authentic southern biscuits and gravy. They probably nourished me more than any other meal as a child, and they are still a huge favorite of mine, but they have to be homemade. Biscuits from a can just don’t cut it.
I have a full-time job, so when we have biscuits and gravy, I make them on the weekends and double the recipe. We have leftovers during the week, which makes feeding hungry children breakfast on a school day a breeze.
In terms of timing, you can make the gravy while the biscuits are cooking if you’d like, but there’s something to be said for making it first and letting it sit a few minutes. Without fail, it will thicken a bit more after it sits, so if you do make it first, keep that in mind.
Milk Gravy Recipe
I’m a gravy purist, and I prefer my gravy to be sausage-free, but I’ve certainly had it both ways. If you want sausage gravy, brown some ground sausage in a skillet separately, and then mix it in when the gravy is done. Makes 4 cups.
4 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk (adjust to desired consistency)
2 tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp pepper, or to taste
Over low heat, melt the butter in a sauce pan, and then stir in the flour until it is incorporated into the butter. Keep the heat low enough that the mixture does not scorch.
Add about a cup of the milk, turn up the heat to medium, and whisk the gravy until the flour mixture is incorporated. Add the rest of the milk. Bring the gravy just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently so the milk does not scorch. Turn off the heat just as the gravy comes to a boil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The sauce should be noticeably thickened, but it will thicken more while standing.
Biscuit Recipe (From Scratch)
My grandmother’s recipe for biscuits went with her to her grave, but mine is certainly close. It’s based on Irma Rombauer’s recipe in Joy of Cooking, but not the current, rewritten monstrosity that Irma would never have recognized (tip: you know you have the right version if yours contains instructions for skinning and cooking squirrel—seriously). My version of this recipe includes the addition of some leftover bacon grease, which I keep in a plastic container in the freezer. You can keep any animal fat back for cooking, but it will go rancid if you don’t freeze it. Bacon fat adds wonderful flavor, and it allows you to use something that would otherwise be thrown away. Fat, particularly animal fat, has been demonized in recent years, but we personally take the viewpoint that the foods our grandparents ate weren’t so bad, in moderation.
1¾ cups pastry flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp chilled butter
1-2 Tbsp chilled bacon fat
¾ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Grease a cookie sheet.
Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
Use a knife to cut the butter into pieces in the flour mixture. Do the same with the chilled (or frozen!) bacon fat. You can use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and bacon fat, or you can just use your fingers, which I find easier. Work the butter and fat into the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (If the bacon fat was frozen, it will melt enough to work with simply from the heat of your hands.)
Once all of the butter and fat is worked in, make a well in the center of the mixture, and add the milk. Stir to mix.
On a floured surface, pat out the biscuit dough until it’s uniformly about one inch in height. Dip a biscuit cutter in flour, and then cut out your biscuits, placing them on the cookie sheet. Reform the dough as needed to cut out more biscuits, until it’s all gone.
Use a pastry brush to brush a little milk or melted butter on top of the biscuits. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.