A beautifully rich and flavorful ham gravy can truly elevate a holiday ham into a mouthwatering masterpiece. More than just a condiment, ham gravy is an integral component of the classic ham dinner, seamlessly pairing with the salty and savory ham to create a symphony of flavors. Making ham gravy from scratch is surprisingly easy. With just a few simple ingredients and some basic techniques, you can quickly whip up the perfect gravy to complement your holiday spread. This guide covers everything you need to know What Gravy Goes With Ham, from choosing ingredients to mastering cooking techniques and serving. Read on for tips, tricks and step-by-step instructions for crafting rich, delicious gravy worthy of your holiday ham centerpiece.
An Overview of the Classic Ham Gravy Recipe
At its core, a basic ham gravy requires just a few pantry staples: some form of ham drippings, butter or oil, flour, broth and seasonings. By combining these ingredients and cooking them together into a luxuriously thickened sauce, you can create rich, from-scratch gravy in under 30 minutes.
The process starts by collecting the rendered fat and browned bits left behind after cooking a ham to use as the flavor base. To this, butter or oil is whisked in along with flour to form a roux that will thicken the gravy. Broth, milk or cream is then slowly incorporated to transform the roux into a smooth sauce. Finally, seasonings like salt, pepper and herbs balance out the flavors. That’s all it takes to make this satisfying gravy from scratch.
Gravy Ingredients and Possible Substitutions
Traditional ham gravy is made using the natural juices and fond leftover from cooking a ham. However, you can easily adapt the recipe based on your cooking method, ingredients on hand or dietary needs. Here are some common gravy ingredients and possible substitutions:
Ham Drippings/Fond: The brown bits leftover from cooking a ham create tons of flavor. Skip store-bought broth and use these drippings instead. If you don’t have drippings, use ham bouillon or broth.
Butter: For richness and sheen, butter is whipped into the roux. Replace it with oil or bacon drippings for a meaty edge.
Flour: All-purpose flour thickens the gravy as it cooks into a roux. Cornstarch can also be used as a thickener.
Broth/Stock: Chicken, ham or vegetable broth adds flavor. For a creamy gravy, use milk or cream instead.
Herbs and Seasonings: Dried sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper lend seasoning. Adjust to taste.
For vegetarian/vegan gravy: Use olive oil instead of butter and mushroom broth or soy milk in place of ham drippings and dairy. Add umami flavor with soy sauce or miso paste.
Step-By-Step Instructions for Crafting Perfect Ham Gravy
Making ham gravy is a simple process of just whisking together a roux, simmering in broth, and seasoning to taste. Follow these easy steps:
1. Collect pan drippings
After baking your ham, pour off or spoon out any juices and browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Fat will separate from the drippings.
2. Make a roux
Whisk together 2-3 Tbsp butter and 3-4 Tbsp flour in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and golden brown.
3. Whisk in pan drippings
Gradually pour in 1-2 cups ham drippings, whisking continuously to incorporate into the roux.
4. Add broth and simmer
Slowly whisk in 1-2 cups broth until smooth and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes until thickened.
5. Season and adjust consistency
Season with salt, pepper and any additional herbs. For thinner gravy, add more broth. If too thin, mix in more roux.
6. Serve hot
Pour gravy into a gravy boat or serve drizzled over sliced ham. Garnish with parsley if desired.
Making a few small adjustments to this process can yield delicious variations. Follow the tips below for even more gravy options.
Alternative Preparation Methods and Ingredients
Make gravy in the pan: For easier one-pan preparation, place roasted ham on a serving platter after cooking. Leave drippings and fond in the pan. Prepare roux and whisk in broth right in the pan for built-in flavor.
Use ham base: Lacking drippings? Use ham broth made from ham hocks or ham base seasoning diluted in water instead of plain broth for concentrated flavor.
Use drippings alternatives: If you don’t have ham drippings, fry ham slices or pieces in butter or oil, then use the rendered fat. Or, sauté aromatics like onion, garlic, carrots and celery first.
Make a gravy “deglaze”: For a deeper flavor profile, place ham drippings in pan after cooking and cook over medium heat while scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then proceed with making roux and adding liquid.
Skip the roux: Thicken your gravy by whisking in a cornstarch slurry instead of a flour-based roux. Simply mix 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch with broth, then gradually add to hot drippings while whisking.
Finish with dairy: For a silky texture and richness, stir in 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream or whole milk just before serving. Drizzle in melted butter for a glossy sheen.
What Gravy Goes With Ham?
|Baked, Glazed, Smoked, Grilled, Honey Glazed, Pan-seared
|Bone-in, Boneless, Spiral, Shank, Hock, Country Ham
|Roasted, Braised, Sliced, Ground
|Brown Gravy, Red Wine Gravy, Sage Gravy, Dijon Mustard Gravy, Maple Gravy, Milk Gravy
|Sweet, Savory, Tangy, Spicy, Herb-infused, Fruity
|Thick, Thin, Creamy, Lumpy, Chunky
|Dijon Mustard Gravy, Red Wine Gravy
|Brown Gravy, Milk Gravy, Maple Gravy
|Lemon-infused Gravy, Herb Gravy
|Peach-infused Gravy, Dijon Mustard Gravy
|Apple Cider Gravy, Sage Gravy, Cranberry Gravy
|Red Wine Gravy, Port Wine Gravy, Mushroom Gravy
|Brown Gravy, Milk Gravy, Sage Gravy
|Red Wine Gravy, Dijon Mustard Gravy, Spicy Gravy
|Mushroom Gravy, Herb Gravy, Creamy Gravy
|Lemon-infused Gravy, Maple Gravy, Herb Gravy
|GF Brown Gravy, Coconut Milk Gravy
|Mushroom Gravy, Herb Gravy, Tomato Gravy
Suggested Side Dishes and Pairings
Aside from the starring ham, a well-crafted gravy deserves accompaniments that can match its sophistication. Here are some recommendations:
Breads – Warm biscuits, rolls, corn bread or popovers for sopping up the gravy.
Vegetables – Roasted Brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, braised greens or grilled asparagus.
Potatoes – Mashed, scalloped or au gratin potatoes. Hash browns or latkes for breakfast ham.
Beans and grains – Baked beans, corn pudding, rice pilaf or cheesy grits.
Fruit relishes – Sweet additions like cranberry sauce, apple chutney or spiced pear compote.
Cheese – A slice of ham baked in a biscuit with gravy and melty cheese is supremely satisfying.
Pairing your gravy with complementary sides creates a medley of sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy textures and flavors.
Wine and Beverage Pairings for Ham and Gravy
What beverage best complements the salty savoriness of ham drenched in hearty gravy? Some winning options include:
Sparkling wines – The brightness of Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling cider cuts through the rich gravy.
Light reds – For roasted ham, try Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or Chianti.
Fruity whites – Off-dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Moscato match the sweetness of a glazed ham.
Brown ales or porters – The malty, caramel notes in dark beers stand up to ham’s intensity.
Cider – Hard or soft apple cider provides a refreshing, tart foil to a savory meal.
Iced tea – Unsweetened tea offers the perfect palate cleanser between bites.
Playing around with fun pairings allows you to experience your ham and gravy meal in a whole new way.
Cultural Variations for Globally-Inspired Ham Gravy
While a biscuit-smothered Southern style ham drizzled in silky sawmill gravy may be traditional, ham gravy takes on delightful new dimensions in other cultures and cuisines. Expand your gravy horizons with these creative twists:
German – Sprinkle crumbled potato pancakes with the gravy for a decadent twist on a breakfast side.
French – Make a velouté de jambon, enriching ham broth with a blond roux and cream.
Spanish – Add slices of ham and peas to make a saucy gravy for paella.
Cajun – Spark heat in the gravy with dashes of hot sauce and peppers.
Italian – Use prosciutto drippings and finish the gravy with grated Parmesan.
Asian – Include ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil or miso paste for an umami-rich Japanese or Chinese-inspired gravy.
The possibilities are endless when you think outside the traditional ham gravy box!
Storing Leftovers and Reheating Tips
A well-made ham gravy keeps for 3-4 days refrigerated and 1-2 months in the freezer. Follow these tips for storing and reheating leftovers:
- Allow the gravy to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.
- To freeze, portion gravy into sealable bags or freezer-safe containers, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace. Squeeze out excess air and seal.
- When reheating, add a splash of milk or broth to thin out the gravy as it warms up.
- Use the stove or microwave to gently reheat gravy to a simmer. Avoid boiling to prevent splitting.
- For the best flavor and texture, reheat gravy in a double boiler or saucepan over low heat while stirring occasionally.
- If gravy separates or curdles, whisk in a bit of flour, cornstarch or heavy cream to stabilize the emulsion.
With proper storage and gentle reheating, you can enjoy your ham gravy to the last savory drop for gravy-smothered leftovers.
The Health Benefits and Drawbacks of Ham Gravy
Like many hearty comfort foods, ham gravy presents both health benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a look at some of the nutritional pros and cons:
- Provides protein from the ham/meat drippings
- Bone broth offers collagen, minerals and electrolytes
- Uses whole food ingredients like flour and butter
- Can be high in saturated fat from meat drippings and butter
- Contains sodium from ham, broth and seasonings
- All-purpose flour is refined versus whole grain
- Use lower sodium broths and limit added salt
- Replace butter with olive or avocado oil
- Incorporate whole wheat flour or cornstarch as the thickener
- Balance with lots of vegetables at the meal
While not the absolute healthiest choice, home-cooked ham gravy made with quality ingredients offers nutritional benefits when enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall nutritious diet.
Handy Tips and Troubleshooting to Avoid Common Gravy Mistakes
Achieving the perfect gravy texture and flavor relies on proper techniques. Watch out for these common pitfalls:
- Lumpy gravy – Whisk together fat and flour thoroughly before adding liquids for a super smooth roux with no clumps.
- Oily or greasy gravy – Too much fat in the roux leads to a heavy, greasy result. Start with just 2-3 Tbsp each of butter and flour.
- Thin, watery gravy – For a nicely thickened gravy, don’t add too much broth and allow enough time for simmering to thicken.
- Overcooked or burnt gravy – Cook over medium low heat and stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom.
- Bland, flavorless gravy – Boost seasoning with lots of black pepper, herbs, ham broth and Worcestershire sauce.
Mastering the easy techniques for smooth, flawless gravy takes a little practice but is very achievable. Stay patient and you’ll be pouring restaurant-quality gravy in no time.
Garnish Ideas for Plating Picture-Perfect Ham and Gravy
A spectacularly plated ham dinner brings this humble yet hearty meal to new heights. Consider these garnishing ideas:
- Fresh parsley, thyme or sage sprigs add a pop of color and flavor.
- Watercress, kale or delicate microgreens offer an elegant arranged salad.
- Cherry tomatoes, roasted asparagus or citrus wedges incorporate bright produce.
- Toasted nuts or pine nuts provide crunch. Shaved parmesan or gruyère lend richness.
- Petals like nasturtium or edible flowers make a dramatic, festive statement.
- Strips of orange or lemon zest, or a cinnamon stick provide a subtle aromatic essence.
With artful garnishes as the finishing touch, your gravy-bathed ham will steal the show as the dazzling centerpiece of your holiday table or buffet.
Chef Secrets for Taking Ham Gravy to the Next Level
Looking to elevate your homemade ham gravy from great to spectacular? Consider advice from the pros:
- “Simmer a chopped onion and minced garlic in the ham drippings first to add incredible depth of flavor” suggests Chef Anne Burrell.
- “For an extra silky texture, I strain the gravy after simmering then finish with a touch of cream” shares Chef Tyler Florence.
- “Adding a splash of bourbon, sherry or Madeira gives a slightly sweet, complex flavor note” advises Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.
- “I love to spike my ham gravy with grainy mustard for a savory, tangy touch” says Chef Carla Hall.
- “Infuse flavor by adding fresh herbs like rosemary, sage and bay leaves to the gravy as it simmers” recommends Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with small tweaks that can take your gravy from basic to bold and beautiful in flavor.
Nutrition Information Per 1⁄2 Cup Serving
- 150 calories
- 13g fat
- 2g saturated fat
- 390mg sodium
- 6g carbohydrates
- 1g fiber
- 1g sugar
- 3g protein
As with any comfort food, enjoy ham gravy in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle. Savor each special occasion bite of this timeless classic.
Frequently Asked Questions About Crafting Ham Gravy
If you’re new to making ham gravy, chances are you have a few questions about perfecting this classic sauce. Here are answers to some often-asked queries:
How much gravy will 1 ham serve?
Allow about 1⁄2 cup gravy per person. For 8 servings of ham, plan on 4 cups of gravy.
Can you prepare gravy ahead of time?
Yes, gravy can be made 1-2 days in advance. Cool, refrigerate and gently reheat over low heat while stirring.
Should gravy be thick or thin?
This comes down to personal preference. For richly coating ham slices, a medium to thick consistency is best. Thin it with more broth if you prefer an easier pouring gravy.
Do you put flour in ham gravy?
Flour is needed to thicken and bind the ingredients into a smooth gravy. Typically 3-4 Tbsp flour per 4 cups broth is used. Cornstarch can also thicken gravy.
Is ham gravy smooth or lumpy?
A properly made roux results in velvety smooth gravy without lumps. Strain for an extra silky texture. Any clumps mean the flour and fat were not whisked together thoroughly enough.
How do you fix lumpy gravy?
If lumps form, press the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to remove them. Or, use an immersion blender right in the saucepan to puree a lumpy gravy into a smooth sauce.
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Bobby Kelly is a bartender at Molly Magees, an Irish pub in Mountain View. He’s been working there for two years and has developed a following among the regulars. Bobby is known for his friendly demeanor and great drink specials. He loves interacting with customers and making them feel welcome. When he’s not at work, Bobby enjoys spending time with his friends and family.