Red Eye Gravy and the sins committed against it
By Marlene Ratledge Buchanen
Jan Snell Houston sent a message about red eye gravy out on facebook. Jan loves cooking shows and she is an excellent Southern Cook.
I do not watch cooking shows, because I am highly allergic to cooking. But I do love to eat and I know Southern Cooking and Southern recipes.
“RED EYE GRAVY. Has always been the cooking of country ham, with coffee poured into the rendered fat. Tonight 5 well known chefs on food network referred to flour based gravy, served over Country Fried Steak as red rye gravy!!! Most disturbing one of the chefs was Trisha Yearwood. She's a Georgia girl and should know better.”
Along with Jan, I was appalled!!! What idiots those TV cooks were. They need to redo the show. That was just blasphemous! What do they pay researches for??? Get a Southern cookbook, for heavens sake. Trisha Yearwood, hang your head in shame.
Red eye gravy gets its name from the ‘red eye” created when you pour coffee in the fat renderings. The coffee pushes all of the fat into an “eye” in the pan. This is a recipe that dates back hundreds of years. People didn’t have a lot and you didn’t waste food. When you cooked your meat, you made gravy and then wiped out the cast iron pan with a biscuit or hunk of bread. A biscuit was a delicacy. To make the left over pan juices go farther, coffee was poured in. Stir and pour over whatever you were eating.
Cured ham and bacon were meats that traveled more easily than that of other types. It was usually salted and smoked. The outside formed a crust to help to preserve the cured meat underneath. Where do you think Honey Baked Ham got the idea of slathering sugar on a ham? In the old days, sugar was more dear than salt. Sugar was kept under lock and key in Sugar Safes.
Cowboys knew how to make red eye gravy. Do you really think the predecessors to John Wayne and Gene Autry carried milk, flour and ground beef in their saddle bags to make “country fried steak with flour based gravy. No, they had hard tack (strips of dried, salty meat), coffee, if they were lucky, and water. Ground corn was often carried and sometimes dried apples or other fruit. They didn’t make filet mignon and fresh carrot salad on these lonely trips. The only fresh on many of those trips were horse and cattle apples. Trust me; you don’t want to eat those.
Our ancestors made red eye gravy. The amount of gravy was determined by the amount of fat rendering and how much coffee and cooking time you had. My Grandmama made it every time we “went home” (Eastman, GA). My Daddy loved her cooking. My Aunts Hazel and Sweetness and Mama made it, but it was never the same as their Mama’s.
How do you eat red eye gravy? I love it best on grits. Please, tell me you know how to make grits. Many people just pour it on meat or on biscuits. My uncle poured it on everything.
Turn your nose up to red eye gravy, if you want. I promise you, if you ever eat the real thing, you will never want another kind. It tastes and is better for you than the pre-packaged gravies you buy now. And it didn’t have processed sugar and artificial flavorings. It is just good stuff poured over grits and eaten with pure joy. I wish I had some right now.
Wonder what Jan is doing for breakfast tomorrow morning? I bet she could go for a plate of salty ham, eggs, grits, red eye gravy and coffee with real milk. YUMMMM