Tag Archives: Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book

Thanksgiving Dinner: How to Make Turkey Gravy

Mother always said that Aunt Rhema made the best gravy. That is Rhema Anderson Fair (1901-1996), about  whom I will be writing more on Thursday this week. My recollection is that Aunt Rhema  was good at many things, but on family dinner occasions, she for sure would be assigned the gravy detail.

 recipe whisks


Of course the thing about perfect gravy is not so much the flavor (although I’ve eaten a lot of over-salted gravy)–its the smooth texture that is so elusive. I found it difficult to get smooth gravy or white sauce, until I started stirring with a whisk instead of a spoon. But having proved that I could do it, I now use a turkey gravy from a jar, and stir in the turkey drippings and giblets to give it more oomph. Shame on me.  But at least I draw the line at marshmallows on my sweet potatoes and mushroom soup-sauced green beans with onion rings–the two dishes that were must-haves from the 50s through the 70s.

What do we need gravy for anyhow?  If you cook the turkey right, it will be juicy and won’t need disguising and moistening.  Mashed potatoes don’t excite me. The only possible reason for making  mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner is to make  fried potato patties with the leftovers and I like leftover turkey gravy on the potato patties.

Come to think of it, the best reason to make a Thanksgiving dinner is to have leftovers! Turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, a bowl of dressing with gravy poured over it, like milk over cornflakes. Pie for breakfast…bring on the leftovers! But I digress….

Gravy is one of those things that mothers and grandmothers are just expected to know how to make, so of course nobody bothers to write down a recipe. Since I don’t have Aunt Rhema’s gravy recipe–or mother’s or grandmothers–I’m going to look at two vintage cookbooks and see what they say.

I know that in my family giblet turkey gravy was the assumption, and almost on auto-pilot, I cook the giblets in water, chop them up and mix them into stuffing or gravy. And I’d use low salt chicken broth instead of water to supplement the drippings. One more tip–baste the turkey with lots of butter to get the best possible drippings.

1925 Cook Book

1925 Cook Book Cover

In 1925, The Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book does not list turkey gravy separately, but includes it with their Roast Turkey recipe.  By the way, they roast a ten -pound turkey for four hours, which would leave a shriveled turkey jerky with our modern turkeys that cook much more quickly.

For gravy, pour off liquid in pan in which turkey was roasted.  From the liquid skim one-fourth cup of fat, return the fat to pan and brown with 5 Tablespoons of flour; add slowly three cups of stock in which giblets were cooked,[I don’t recommend this as it can be bitter], or add two cups of boiling water to dissolve the glaze in bottom of the pan and substitute for broth. [We would say ‘deglaze the pan with 2 cups boiling water or broth]. Cook five minutes, season with salt and pepper and strain; add the giblets chopped very fine.  The giblets may be used for force meat balls or chopped fine and mixed with the stuffing.

By the way, the Buffalo Cooking School gives helpful information about choosing fowl. Here’s what they say about turkey.

Turkeys are old when they have long hairs, and the flesh which shows through the skin is purple.  Turkeys are at their best in mid-winter. In the spring they begin to deteriorate.

Thanks goodness for Butterball or for the naturally-raised turkeys sold at natural food stores. You can see more of the Buffalo tips for fowl in my roasted chicken article.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953

Now fast-forwarding about 28 years, let’s see what the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook has to say about turkey gravy. Their gravy instructions come in four steps, accompanied by four pictures. And they suggest four variations–brown, cream, chicken, or giblet gravy.


Turkey Gravy

Gravy from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

1. Measure the drippings.  Lift turkey or roast to warm platter; it will carve better if it stands about 20 minutes.  Leave crusty bits in pan; pour out fat, meat juices.  When fat comes to the top, skim it off.  For each cup gravy, measure 2 Tablespoons fat back into the pan.

2. Add flour.  Set the roasting pan over very low heat.  Measure 2 Tablespoons flour for each cup of gravy.  We’re adding 1/4 cup flour to make 2 cups of gravy enough for 8 servings. Be sure to blend fat and flour well. [Note: their illustrations show the cook using a whisk.]

3.  Cook gravy till frothy.  Keep on stirring.  For richer flavor and color, brown the flour until its light tan.  The liquid for gravy should be lukewarm. Use the meat juices plus the giblet stock, milk or water.

4. Add liquid.  For each cup gravy, measure 1 Cup liquid.  Pour into pan all at once.  As you stir, blend in the crusty bits on bottom of pan.  Cook till thick; simmer about 5 minutes.  Pour into a hot gravy boat, serve to climax meat and potatoes.  It’s perfect gravy–smooth, rich, and full of flavor.

For Giblet Gravy, add chopped cooked giblets and use giblet broth for part of liquid.

Want a modern recipe for turkey gravy?  I looked at several, but Bon Apetit had the most delicious-looking picture, and an easy recipe. Take a look. You’re going to want to lick the screen.

So there you have it. Do you make turkey gravy? What do you put it on?

Vintage Recipe: Juiciest Roasted Chicken Ever

I’m thinking of end-of-summer travel and picnics this week.  I know that in my grandmother’s day, a picnic was not a picnic without cold fried or roasted chicken, so I decided to look for a vintage recipe for roasted chicken.

Don’t the women in their Edwardian summer outfits look like they are having fun?  Grandma Vera Anderson was a member of a club that organized cultural events for the town of Killbuck, bringing in plays and lecturers. But they obviously had some fun, as well. This picture is taken in front of a hat shop, run by Node Nelson, the woman standing with her arm raised in front of the porch post. You can barely see hats in the window on the left.

Eating roasted chicken in 1905

Aren’t these ladies having fun eating roasted chicken for a picnic? Vera Anderson top right. Early 20th Century.

Every vintage recipe for roasted chickens that I have read in Joy of Cooking or even in the Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 50s are pretty basic:  Fill the body cavity with some dressing, slather the outside with butter, and put in a 350 oven until it is done.

My Grandma Vera n had a large electric roasting pan, but I don’t recall that she did anything complicated with her chickens.  However, I wanted to see if there was a different way, and so I once again turned to the Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book.

Frugal Kiwi chickens

Chickens in the backyard of the Frugal Kiwi, found at http://frugalkiwi.com

I found a treasure.  Before I got to the recipe, I read through their description of how to deal with poultry and game.  Some of it is basic advice that few people these days know about–how to pluck a chicken, how to judge the quality of the bird, how to cut up a fowl.  Some of it is quite surprising.

…it should be thoroughly washed inside and out, (Read this article for a modern alternative view on washing chicken) and if there is an unpleasant odor form the inside, rub it with a little cooking soda.  If the odor disappears quickly the bird is good to eat. If the odor persists it is best to cut the bird open to see whether there are any bruises or recognizable bad places.  A fowl that ha a bad odor had better not be eaten.

Well, yeah, if my chicken stinks, I don’t think I’ll eat it. But how about this advice?

All game is best in the winter and should never be eaten in the spring.  At that time of the year the broiling chickens are better and can be prepared in such a variety of ways, that there is no need of any other fowl.

I guess it doesn’t really matter since I don’t eat a lot of pheasant or quail, or even duck , but I imagine some restaurants might be surprised at the advice.

The smooth legs of a fowl less than a year old may be used. Scaled with boiling water and skin and claw cases will peel off like a glove.  Place in cold salted water and cook slowly.  Three pairs of chicken feet will make a pint of jelly as fine, and just as nutritious as calf’s foot jelly.

Well, it is certainly good to know what to do when you run out of calves’ feet, isn’t it?

Okay, I’m being a little sarcastic about these dated (from 1925) instructions, that address a cook whose fowl and poultry came directly from the farm or from her back yard instead of from a chicken factory.  But on to the vintage recipe for roasted chicken, which is really superb. (Their fried chicken recipe sounds great too, and I’ll try it one of these days.)

Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken Heritage Recipe from the Buffalo News Cook Book

Here’s the roasted chicken recipe just as it is in The Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book, and then a few of my notes.

Dress, clean, stuff and truss a four-pound chicken.  Rub with salt and pepper and place in roasting pan. Rub into a paste three tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour and cover breast and legs with it.  Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven and when flour is browned, baste with one-fourth cup of butter melted in one-half cup boiling water. Reduce oven heat and baste every ten minutes until chicken is done.  If water dries from the bottom of the pan add more.  A four-pound chicken requires one and one-fourth hours to roast. (For stuffing see below).  [A recipe for gravy follows, but I skipped the gravy.]
  • I did make a bread dressing with 2 C bread and 1/2 c melted butter, but whereas their simple dressing is seasoned only with salt and pepper, I added rosemary, a little cumin and dried cranberries and walnut bits.
  • My first challenge was “cover the breast and legs” with the flour-butter paste.  Not as easy as it sounds. I tried doing it with my fingers, and it just didn’t work at all, so I tried spreading with a knife and it spread a little better, but as you can see in the picture, winds up pretty bumpy with exposed spots.
  • “Dredge” I took to mean scatter the flour around the chicken in the pan bottom to cover, but not deeply. I had no idea how long the flour in the bottom of the pan would take to brown.  I set the oven at 400° , which I figured was their “hot oven.” It took more than 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so you don’t get burnt flour. I reduced the heat to 350°  when I poured the butter and water over.
  • I did have to add water to the bottom of the pan in order to have some liquid with which to baste. (I don’t have a baster, so just used a spoon.)
  • My chicken was 3 1/2 pounds and it was not done after 3 1/2 hours, but that may just be my oven.

The end result was absolutely the juiciest roasted chicken I have EVER eaten.  I know when I roast chicken and turkey, in order to avoid the breast getting dried out or too brown, I cover the bird with foil in the last half of cooking, or I start it breast down and turn it over entirely during the cooking. However, the flour/butter paste serves to protect the top from browning too much and holds in the juices.

Have you ever cooked chicken this way?  Or seen it done?  And how about the chicken-feet jelly??