If there is one person who knows how to do Southern right, it’s my Alabama-native friend Steve-Anna Stephens. Please welcome her as she walks us through how to make wonderfully indulgent buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy. ~Elise
If there is one true expression of Southern love on a plate, it’s homemade buttermilk biscuits and gravy. There are so many ways to make biscuits and gravy, but this one’s my favorite. The biscuits are easy to make, and the gravy is loaded with sausage.
This version of sausage gravy is a beloved Southern recipe – there are many variations to be found. Sage and nutmeg are two of the more pronounced flavors in the gravy, giving it a slightly more elevated taste than you would find in simple milk gravy. If you dislike these flavors, omit the nutmeg and use a regular pork breakfast sausage instead of the sage-flavored variety.
One of the differences you’ll find when you talk to people about how they make sausage gravy is whether or not they make a traditional roux (just drippings and flour), or they add the flour directly to the sausage after it’s browned. I’ve made it both ways; the gravy thickens up just fine when you add the flour to the browned sausage mixture.
As for the biscuits, there are countless recipes that have been handed down over the years in Southern families. Many swear that White Lily Self-Rising Flour is essential to making light fluffy biscuits. However, in my experience you can make perfectly respectable biscuits even if you can’t get your hands on that Southern staple. You can also mix up the ratio of butter and shortening, or just use one or the other, or lard, if you prefer.
In the spirit of the gracious South, please share with us your favorite way to make biscuits and gravy.
I recommend preparing the biscuits first (not baking them), getting the gravy started, and then baking the biscuits while the gravy is thickening up. That way you can stir the gravy frequently which is hard to do when your hands are covered with flour and dough. If you don't have self-rising flour, you can substitute using a ratio of 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt, for every cup of self-rising flour.
Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe Ingredients:
- 2 ½ cups self-rising flour (plus extra for flouring your surface)
- 2 tsp sugar (Optional)
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp vegetable shortening (see Baking Tips below)
- 4 Tbsp butter (chilled)
- 1 cup chilled buttermilk (plus 1-2 tbsp more, if needed)
- 1 tbsp melted butter (Optional: to brush on top of biscuits after baking)
Sausage Gravy Ingredients:
- 1 lb sage-flavored pork sausage
- ¼ cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
- 6 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ tsp poultry seasoning
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 dashes of Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or other hot sauce
- 1-2 tbsp butter or bacon grease (if needed)
Baking Tips: 1) Spoon the flour into your 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, 2) Instead of 4 Tbsp each of butter and shortening, feel free to use 8 Tbsp of shortening or butter, or any combination up to 8 Tbsp.
1 Preheat oven to 450 F. Prepare a floured surface for shaping the dough and have an ungreased baking sheet ready (lined with Silpat sheets if you have them).
2 Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl. 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.
3 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 1-2 tbsp more buttermilk if the dough is dry. Do not over mix; the dough will be tacky, neither wet nor dry.
4 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.
5 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.
6 Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Turn the baking sheet around halfway through baking.
7 Optional: Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.
1 Preheat a 4-quart saucepan over medium high heat (put a few drops of water in the pan – when they evaporate, you know the pan is ready). Crumble the sausage into the pan and let it brown for a minute or two, then turn down to medium heat. Continue cooking, breaking up the sausage into smaller pieces, until no pink remains. Stir in the onions and cook until they are transparent.
2 Remove sausage with a slotted spatula or spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan. If less than 3 tbsp of drippings remain, add enough butter (or bacon grease) to equal about 3 tbsp of drippings. Add the cooked sausage back to the pan on medium heat, and sprinkle the flour over the sausage. Stir in the flour and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the mixture starts bubbling and turns slightly golden brown.
3 Stir in poultry seasoning, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and salt – cook for 1 minute to deepen the flavors. Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 15 minutes). Be patient, it will thicken!