The biscuits are traditionally made with butter or lard and buttermilk; the milk (or “sawmill” or country) gravy with meat drippings and (usually) chunks of good fresh pork sausage and black pepper. Cheap and requiring only widely available ingredients, a meal of biscuits and gravy was a filling way for slaves and sharecroppers to face a hard day in the fields. The Southern way with gravies was born of privation. When folks are poor, they make do. Which means folks make gravy,” says The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. The soul, you might say, of soul food.
Why is it called biscuits and gravy?
The type of biscuits made in the 1800s Appalachia contained no fat, making them crisp and brittle, so sausage gravy made them much tastier and easier to eat. This origin story is why some restaurants and recipes refer to biscuits and gravy as “biscuits with sawmill gravy.
How to Make Sausage Gravy
For the Buttermilk Biscuits:
- 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, plus extra for flouring your surface
- 2 teaspoons sugar, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening (see Recipe Note)
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, chilled
- 1 cup chilled buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons more, if needed
- 1 tablespoon melted butter, optional, to brush on top of biscuits after baking
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Prepare a floured surface for shaping the dough and have an un-greased baking sheet ready (lined with Silpat sheets if you have them).
Whisk the flour, sugar and salt:
In a medium-sized bowl which together the flour, sugar and salt.
To measure the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, and level it off with the back side of a knife. If you scoop the flour, it will pack into the measuring cup, yielding too much flour.
Cut in the shortening and butter:
Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut in the shortening and butter. Work quickly, you don’t want the fats to melt — the key to fluffy biscuits is minimal handling. The mixture should be crumbly.
Add the buttermilk and stir:
Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a spoon and blend just until the liquid is absorbed and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl — add 1 to 2 tablespoons more buttermilk if the dough is dry. Do not over mix; the dough will be tacky, neither wet nor dry.
Fold and shape the dough:
With lightly floured hands, turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and gently fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times. Shape into a 3/4” thick round. If you use a rolling pin, be sure to flour it first to keep the dough from sticking to the pin.
Cut out the biscuits:
Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits pressing straight down (avoid the temptation to twist the cutter as twisting keeps the biscuits from rising). Dip the cutter in flour between cuttings to keep the dough from sticking to the cutter.
Place biscuits on the baking sheet so that they just touch (for crunchy sides, leave space in between). Reshape scrap dough and continue cutting. Remember to handle the dough as little as possible.
(At this point you can start on making the sausage gravy below, and put the biscuits in the oven right before adding the milk in the last gravy step.).
Bake the biscuits:
Bake at 450°F for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Turn the baking sheet around halfway through baking.
Brush with butter:
(Optional) Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.
Is biscuits and gravy a healthy breakfast?
What country is biscuits and gravy from?