My mother always used to say that the crowning glory to any good meal was the gravy. It would either make or break a dish. I agree with her entirely on this point, but sometimes getting the gravy right can be a headache in itself. After all at the end of the day we are only human. Sometimes we have really good days and another things can be really off. I tend to be one of these people that if I am not firing on all pistons or cylinders that it tends to come out in my cooking!
I was taught to make gravy the old fashioned way, with the veggie juices, and meat juices if doing a roast or a cut of meat, plenty of white pepper, some Burdall's Gravy browning (now not available but the one I tried recently is very good although you do not need much as it is very salty) a little cranberry or redcurrant jelly (I prefer redcurrant by choice), some Marigold flavouring, available from good supermarkets and Holland and Barratt, some Herbs de Provence or more particularly Thyme if I have it to hand. These nearly always go into a basic gravy mix. I have also taken to using Arrowroot to thicken the gravy in preference to Cornflour.
I started messing around a week or two back when I was preparing Toad in the hole. When I make this I prefer a gravy that has an onion background, but every so often that gravy did not come up to snuff and the onion flavour was not as pronounced as I would wish it to be. Not bad but not quite as I wanted it. So back to the drawing board and a slightly different approach.
I had read that to deglaze a pan and get all the flavoursome bits off the bottom that you could add wine to a gravy mix and that this would also give extra body and flavour to the gravy. On that basis I thought why not wine vinegar or indeed cider vinegar. I have both in the house but the easiest to hand was the cider vinegar. I always put a dash of vinegar in a Yorkshire pudding mix in any event just before putting into a nice hot pan to assist with the raise so why not the gravy!
So off I went I gently fried in some butter and some oil a finely sliced onion until just starting to caramelize and then adding a dash of water to the mix a little at a time so that it does not over-flood the mixture and thickens in between. I then added plenty of white pepper, a couple of bay leaves, some Herbs de Provence a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly, some of the Marigold mix, a chicken pot and a beef pot, some veggie water or if none some ordinary water and bought to the bubble and let the flavours develop a little. I then added a teaspoon and a half of cider vinegar.
On this particular occasion as the Toad was in the oven I used a separate saucepan but normally I use the tray the meat was roasted in and get all the goodness off the bottom of the tray. I keep tasting in between and adding extra of this and that if needed. However after adding the vinegar I was quite surprised that the flavour took on a sweet and sour effect and it went well with the pork sausages in the Toad. Only after I am happy with the flavour do I bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then cool it down and draw the pan off the flame/heat. I then stir in the thickener, more commonly these days I use Arrowroot as it gives a shinier effect and does not lump as much in the pan. You can buy Arrowroot by the lb from Holland and Barratt. I was so pleased with the final gravy and felt it complimented the meal beautifully and seemed to enhance the onion flavour that bit more. So I shall carry on doing this. It has also worked very well with Roast Pork and also with the chickens that I cooked over the weekend.
I do not add salt as any of the commercial stock flavourings are usually very high in salt and so there is no real need to add salt unless your taste buds tell you differently and then I use sea salt and only a very light sprinkling.
In case you are wondering what the Marigold is (not is not the rubber gloves) it is a dried flavouring that I think adds a lot more flavour to home made gravies.
This is not an advertisement just my own personal view. You do not need to use much of it either.
How do you make gravy? Do you experiment or is it something that you have not really considered in any great depth or indeed how to vary the flavourings. Would love to hear from you.
Catch you soon.