Sawmill gravy (or sausage gravy) was a favorite in my house growing up. It was cheap and quick, and easy to make. My brother and I were active kids, and as fast as we grew, we ate a lot.
My mother had to find ways to feed us a lot of food for a relatively small amount of money. We would have eaten them out of house and home if she didn’t.
A pile of biscuits and some sawmill gravy was a typical breakfast in our house. It took pennies to make, went a long way, and filled us up until lunchtime.
It’s a Southern favorite, especially for laborers who need the carbs to help propel them through their day.
It’s so common here in Texas that most hotels serve it as part of their breakfast menu. When I traveled and stayed in hotels with work, it was always the first thing I put on my plate in the morning.
It was hotel food so, of course, it wasn’t very good. I think the nostalgia was the best part of the flavor.
Just because it’s homemade doesn’t mean it’s difficult to make, though. It’s super simple.
A technique to make it great is to brown the sausage correctly. The goal is to get a good sear on it without overcooking it.
To do this, break the sausage into two or three chunks, smash it into the pan, and cook it for about three minutes without disturbing it. Then, using a wooden spatula, break it up and cook it the rest of the way, stirring and breaking up the chunks into smaller pieces.
This will allow the part that was initially touching the pan to become well browned and more flavorful (see the Maillard Reaction).
Once you’ve finished cooking the sausage, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Next, you’ll make a flour roux in the remaining fat, then add milk. Finally, add the cooked sausage back in, simmer until thickened, and serve.
- Add 2 tbsp. of lard to a cast-iron skillet and preheat over medium-high heat.
- Break the breakfast sausage into 2-3 chunks, then smash them into the pan and let cook for 3 minutes undisturbed. Break up with a sturdy wooden spatula and continue cooking, stirring, and further breaking it up, until it is thoroughly cooked, with no more pink showing.
- Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Pour off all but about 3 tbsp. of fat.
- Reduce the heat to low and whisk flour into the fat. Cook, whisking constantly until smooth and it stops foaming. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Whisk until completely smooth again, then add the sausage back in.
- Turn the heat back up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened. About 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if necessary. Serve over hot biscuits.