I am so excited; a reader has asked the first cooking question.
This is exactly what I hoped this blog would to turn into.
A very sweet lady asked me the other day about making gravy.
She explained that her grandmother used to make "bottle gravy," but had not learned how to do it before her grandmother's death, and wondered if I had been fortunate enough to learn such a recipe from my grandmother.
Although she never called it that, I remember a jar kept in the kitchen cabinet that she used only for making gravy. There wasn't anything special about it, just an empty pickle jar that had been sanitized by washing and boiling it. The only remarkable thing about it was she placed a piece of duct tape to designate where the liquid mark was at on the jar.
"When you're cooking to feed this crew, you sometimes just don't have time to stop and get out the measuring cup and play Betty Crocker," Grandma Iva would explain about the tape. "This bunch gets hungry, you either cook quick or get out of the way."
The jar always sat there with its lid on it, waiting to go into action, with three-four tablespoons of flour inside and a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper and garlic powder inside.
To use it, she would melt four tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan over medium heat until melted.
Meanwhile, she would add one cup of milk or stock into the jar and shake it till the contents were mixed. This would slowly be added to the butter, whisking all the while. As it began to thicken she would add another cup of liquid to the pan and continue to whisk until she had the consistency she wanted. (If she thinned it too much, she would add another tablespoon of flour on top and keep whisking away.)
The mixture might clump up a bit, but that's ok. Keep stirring until all the lumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when at the consistency you want then add salt and pepper to taste.
Not only was it the source of incredible various types of gravy (just by adding cheese, mushrooms, sausage or chipped beef), this is simple sauce became the base of macaroni and cheese, a thickener for various types of cream soups (like broccoli, potato, spinach, and many others) and (I'm not exactly sure how she did it, but I'm still reading her cookbooks to find out.) she once made an incredible chocolate sauce by using the same method.
I always remember that when she was done using the jar, it was immediately washed, prepared for the next use and put back on the shelf.