A Yankee in a Southern Home…

Hello! As I believe I mentioned before, my family always liked my cooking. One thing about my first husband…. he ate everything I made. If he didn’t like it, he still ate it. He never said he didn’t like it though. He would say, “You don’t have to go to all the trouble to make this one again.” To his credit, he was never mean about it.

My kids liked my cooking. My parents and my sister Claire (God rest their souls) liked it too.

When my kids were in their early teens, their Dad and I had split up. I was working as an Emergency Department nurse and I met the Guy who would (11 years later!) become my second husband. He was a firefighter/paramedic, and as he says, “A good old Southern boy.”

My Guy also had three sons. I loved to cook things for them and I would leave them in the fridge. I didn’t find out til later they didn’t eat most of it. They threw it out. These Southern boys did not like Yankee cooking. Funny thing, I never really thought of myself as a “Yankee cook.”

My first move from Massachusetts was to North Carolina. It was a culture shock in so many ways. Restaurant menus were like a foreign language. Hush puppies? Aren’t those shoes?

I have learned, finally, that there are extreme differences. A really sweet bunch of Baptist Church Ladies taught me a lot. Then the lovely Southern Belles I met while living in the mountains of Southwest Virginia for two years taught me a lot more. But the true Queen of Southern Cooking, from whom I have learned so much, is Miss Mabel…. my mother-in-law.

Mabel lives with us, and while at 94 (sorry I told, Mama!) she doesn’t do the cooking anymore, she is sharp as a tack and continues to share not just recipes but methods.

As my southern cooking methods and recipes grew and progressed and improved, I quickly won over my Guy and his guys.

I love Miss Mabel and I know she loves me. I also know I am still able to puzzle her with things I do in the kitchen.

Ok…. Onward! Today’s recipe is Mabel’s Southern Sausage Gravy. This is one of the times when this Yankee girl was lost in a southern kitchen.

I am not a fan of gravy, with few exceptions. Sausage gravy is not an exception. Since I don’t care for it, I had no idea I was doing it wrong.

I didn’t make it often, but my Guy and his boys ate it, partly because even then I made good biscuits. I think the other part was them being nice. It didn’t look right, I knew that. It was much lighter in color than other sausage gravy I had seen. One weekend when visiting Mabel, I told her this. She asked me how I made it. I described browning the sausage, draining it on paper towels, pouring off the grease, putting butter in the pan….. Miss Mabel looked horrified. As she explained I was not making sausage gravy, I was making butter gravy and putting sausage in it…. Well, my turn to be horrified! She wanted me to make gravy out of sausage grease!

Cooking other foods in sausage or bacon grease was completely foreign to me. My own mother would have starved first. I already didn’t care for sausage gravy but now, well…. Gross!

The good side to this story is I make it her way, my Guy and all the boys love it, as do the folks in the mountains and anyone else who tries it. The Yankee makes the best sausage gravy! I still don’t eat it.

Heat a large frying pan (cast iron is best) over medium high heat. Add 1 lb bulk sausage, stirring and breaking it up and browning it thoroughly. Leave the sausage and the grease in the pan! Sprinkle 1/4C flour evenly over sausage, and stir well to combine and coat the meat. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Sprinkle in 1/2t salt, 1/2t pepper, and 1/4t cayenne pepper. The cayenne in this amount doesn’t make it hot, it adds flavor. Slowly pour in 2C whole milk, or, for a richer gravy, 1C evaporated milk and 1C whole milk. Stir the whole time. Keep stirring to a gentle boil, then cook and stir 2 more minutes. If it gets too thick, stir in a bit more milk. You can’t add any more flour… it will be lumpy and clumpy and won’t cook, so be careful it isn’t too thin.

That’s it! You serve it over biscuits, make some scrambled eggs, and lovers of sausage gravy will love it, and you! Anyone cooking for true Southerners has to know how to make this right. Thank you Miss Mabel!

Love, Grammy

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