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.
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 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.
By the way, the Buffalo Cooking School gives helpful information about choosing fowl. Here’s what they say about turkey.
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
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.
Gravy from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
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?