This week we’re pulling recipes from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery that use up some of that leftover ham from Easter! Red-eye gravy is a Southern staple–this thin, sauce-like gravy is made with just two ingredients: ham fat and coffee. Traditionally made with country ham, an intensely salty cured meat, we’ll show you how to make it with slices of baked ham. Serve up the gravy with fried ham and biscuits for a hearty breakfast or lunch.

We’ll also be making our go-to biscuit recipe. Biscuits are a versatile dough and can be flavored, filled, or used as cobbler topping. Biscuits only take a few simple ingredients that can be swapped out based on what’s available to you. Below are some suggested creative uses of biscuit dough:

  • Cut dough into strips, dip in melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking
  • Use for dumplings and steam over a stew
  • Add a little cheese and chives, bake, and brush with garlic butter for a dinner roll
  • Cut and place over top of a dish of stew, bake, and serve as a savory cobbler
  • Thin out dough, put all in a loaf pan or skillet, bake and serve as pan bread
  • Use it as a ‘pie’ crust for an egg custard dish
  • Cut into rings and fry for a donut
  • Fill with cheese, meat, and a sauce for a hot pocket-style dinner
  • Roll flat and top with red sauce and cheese for an easy pizza dinner
  • The list goes on! Comment below with your favorite use of biscuit dough


Red-Eye Gravy (from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery):

Jake Waldroop

“Fry slices of ham in a frying pan. After they are done, remove and add flour (optional) to the grease that’s left in the pan. Let it brown. Add coffee and continue to stir. The coffee will make it a dark brown gravy. You may leave out the flour. Just add coffee to the grease left in the pan after you’ve finished cooking your ham. Stir it around. The gravy will be very thin, but have an excellent flavor and be mighty good for sopping biscuits in.”

Our adapted recipe:

2-4 thick slices of ham, any style (you can also use bacon)

2 Tbsp bacon fat or solid fat, or reserved ham drippings if you baked a ham

3-4 Tbsp flour (optional)

1/2-3/4 cup strong black coffee

Start by frying the ham slices in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brown lightly on both slides. Remove ham and set aside for serving. Add enough bacon fat or other fat to the grease in the pan. You want about 2-3 tablespoons total. To make an optional roux, add in 3-4 tablespoons of flour. Mix well and cook over heat 5-8 minutes, until a golden shade of brown. Pour in 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup strong black coffee, depending on how thin you want the gravy. Stir and cook about 5 minutes, until liquid has reduced somewhat. Serve over fried ham slices and serve with biscuits, cornbread, or grits.


Baking Powder Biscuits

This is a basic recipe that can be adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand. Possible substitutions are listed in parentheses.

2 cups flour (get creative and mix in different flours with your all purpose, like 1/4 c rye, 1/2 c whole wheat, or some cornmeal)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/3 cup lard (can use any solid fat, such as shortening or butter)

1/2-3/4 cup milk (we recommend buttermilk, but any milk, including non-dairy will work)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together. Work in lard or shortening with fingers or fork (if using butter, we recommend freezing it and then grating it in). If you have a freezer available, stick the whole mixture into the freezer for 10-15 minutes after mixing. This will help create super flaky biscuits. Take mixture out of freezer. Gradually add the milk until mixture is well-blended. You want a nice sticky, cohesive dough. Put dough on floured surface, roll to about 1/4″-1/2″ thick, cut into desired shape. Place on baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Yield: 16 biscuits


~Kami Ahrens, Assistant Curator