To help get going in the morning, cattle-herding cowboys would swirl strong, black coffee and a little flower in a skillet of drippings from pan-fried country ham.
How red-eye gravy got its name is up for debate. Some say it comes from the gravy’s appearance when the water-based coffee sinks to the bottom of a bowl and the oil-based grease forms a top layer, a mixture resembling a red human eye.
However, depending on how red-eye gravy is prepared, it doesn’t always have the red-eye look, leading to a pot full of urban legends surrounding its name sake. According to one legend, U.S. President Andrew Jackson called his cook over to order his breakfast. The cook’s eyes were bloodshot after a night of drinking, so the president requested ham with gravy as red as his eyes and ham gravy was known as red-eye gravy from then on. Another leans on logic, saying the term is homage to the black coffee ingredient and the fatigue symptom of having red eyes.
Well known in the South, red-eye gravy remains largely unheard of throughout the rest of the country. Whatever its history is, this gravy is here to stay. With Broadbent’s country ham, you too can make the gravy that packs a punch.
Instructions: To make red-eye gravy, stir a cup of black coffee into a pan of hot ham drippings. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to get any bits of ham that may be stuck to the pan. Cook until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and serve.