Crackers and Gravy is a carb-lover’s dream come true. Crushed up saltine crackers are mixed together with gravy (any sort you like), and make up a very unique side dish. It’s been in my family since the Great Depression, possibly even longer.
It’s funny sometimes, how food connects us. Or how dishes that you think are specific to your family are maybe regional dishes or aren’t as unique as you might believe. Crackers and Gravy is one such dish.
You’re likely asking yourself what the heck this nonsense is. Crackers and gravy?
If you like carbs, you’ll love it. It’s been a part of my family for longer than I’ve been alive, though I don’t have it as frequently now as I did as a child.
It’s a dish I associate with my dad and his side of the family. One that I want to pass down to the bambino, though he hasn’t taken to it quite the way I did.
He has his father’s love for all things dairy. Which isn’t a surprise. Jay’s grandfather farmed and raised dairy cattle, though he’s since retired from farming.
My dad’s side of the family loves their carbs, and Crackers and Gravy is nothing but.
Growing up, I was always told it’s Depression-era food. The family might not have been able to afford potatoes, and used crackers as a substitute. My granddad grew up during the Depression, and I just assumed it was one of those things that was a holdover from that time.
My mom’s dad used to put ketchup on his steaks, for that same reason. Sometimes the meat they got wasn’t all that great, and ketchup would help disguise the taste.
But in doing some minor research on Crackers and Gravy (or Cracker Gravy), I discovered it’s also known as Yankee Pot Pie. It may or may not have originated in the Maryland area. Which might explain the connection to my family, though I have no idea how old this dish actually is.
Family legend has it that 3 brothers emigrated from France sometime in the 1600s, and landed in what is now Maryland. The brother who is my ancestor made his way to Virginia, and the family put down roots.
Some likely distant cousins are still there. Years ago I was watching an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (when he was in West Virginia) and about fell off my chair when the name of a woman they interviewed popped up. Her last name was the same as my maiden name (and it’s not a common one at all).
Our branch of the family apparently got booted out at some point (we don’t know why), and ended up in Indiana, which is where my granddad was born. He back-tracked to Ohio, where my dad, younger sister and I were all born.
And I’ve now brought Crackers and Gravy to the Northern Plains.
It’s a nice foil for all the cookie and candy “salads” they have out here.
There’s no real recipe here, so I included my basic gravy recipe. You just crush the crackers with your hands over your plate (and they have to be Saltines. No butter crackers or anything like that; bread is also an acceptable substitute, though I never liked that as much), top with as much or as little gravy as you like, then mix it together.
It’s not the best-looking dish out there, but it is good. One of those comfort foods that I make whenever I’m missing Ohio or my family.
So tell me, do you have any dishes like this that are specific to just your family? If so, what are they or what’s the story behind them?
- 1/4 C flour
- 1/4 C unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. meat drippings (beef, pork or chicken)
- 1 C milk
- 1 C water or chicken or beef broth
- salt and pepper
- 12-15 Saltines
Heat the meat drippings in a large skillet over medium heat. While they are heating, combine the butter and flour in a microwave-safe dish, and cook for 1 minute, or until the butter has melted. Whisk together to combine.
Once the drippings are hot, add the roux, and cook until lightly browned and nutty-smelling, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the milk and water all at once, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the gravy has thickened slightly, whisking occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, crush the saltines with your hands. Top with approximately 1/4 to 1/2 C of gravy, and mix together, until the consistency is as desired.