“Just two generations ago, preparing meals was as much a part of life as eating,” so says Mark Bittman in an article entitled How to Eat Now published in the October 20, 2014 issue of TIME magazine. Although a recent Harris poll reveals that 79% of Americans say they enjoy cooking, probably most get at least a third of their daily calories outside the home. Bittman goes on to show how easy it is to get a nutritious home-cooked meal on the table and includes 3 simple recipes: Vegetable soup which borrows from the freezer aisle, a whole roast chicken with garlic and lemons, and skillet pear crisp recipe which makes for easy cleanup.
Mother of course cooked two main meals every day. I could count on the fingers of one hand the times we ate in a restaurant. Her recipes were hearty, reflective of the PA Dutch cooking she grew up with, never skimping on the butter.
When I came back from Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, I brought on the plane frozen ham loaf and chipped beef. After the ham loaf is thawed, it’s a cinch to pop it into the oven and serve in a few hours with virtually no prep time.
Preparing chipped beef gravy though, while not enormously time consuming, does require assembling ingredients: dried/chipped beef, butter, flour, milk or cream, and a touch of pepper and then stirring in a skillet on the stove.
Last Wednesday, I pulled out my trusty Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter, a book of 1100 favorite recipes gleaned from Mennonite families all over the United States and Canada. Usually, I use Mother’s recipe in my head and knowing the ingredients to what she called dried beef gravy I add a hunk of this and two cups of that, “just what you think” as she used to say. This time though I will follow the cookbook’s recipe for creamed dried beef, which I see browns the beef with the butter.
Next I assemble all of the ingredients and fire up the stove, beginning with melting butter in a hot skillet.
Adding the dried beef to the melted butter sends a hearty aroma throughout the kitchen. Then, sprinkling flour over the butter and beef, I create a roux to which I slowly add milk. Depending on your sensitivity to calories, you could use water, milk, or cream. I always use milk. Keep on stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and thick.
Finally, your creamed dried beef, which Mother always referred to as dried beef gravy, is ready to serve over toast, over mashed potatoes, as you wish.
Dried Beef Gravy over Mashed Potatoes
Mark Bittman would probably raise his eyebrows over the amount of butter and flour in the creamed dried beef recipe. And of course this menu is heartier than his lower calorie menu of vegetable soup, roast chicken with pear crisp but, oh, is it delicious!
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For years I thought of creamed dried beef as a Pennsylvania Dutch dish. After all, it appeared on page 58 of the Mennonite Cookbook, 1972 edition. Recently, my sister-in-law Terry told me her mother made the same recipe when she was growing up in California.
How about you? Did you enjoy creamed dried beef (or a variation) growing up? Is this recipe part of your cooking repertoire now?
Inquiring cooks want to know. . .
I have never tried this, although I am neither Mennonite nor Californian. Looks delicious!
Hi, Eli Pacheco I\’m Latina and I love this. It is wonderful! My oldest daughter is a Pacheco. This is why I responded to your post. Have a nice day.
Eli, I know you are a foodie, a coach daddy, and former sports writer who believes in the power of a comment. Thanks for visiting \”plain-and-fancy\” again today.
Gloria, I\’m glad you found a connection to another commenter. Way to go!
Awesome! Pachecos are everywhere. Sometimes, even in places we ought to be.
How funny! This morning I only noticed the name Pacheco. Now I realize my daughter who is a Pacheco has her first grandchild who is also Eli. E for his father Evan Li for her daughter Lissi. What a small world!
Recent articles on home cooking and the lack of it have elicited a ton of comments from food scholars. I\’ve always cooked, but I understand the problems of those who can\’t or don\’t because of work schedules, lack of food stores, money, etc. I do love and make hearty soups and stews, but sorry–creamed dried beef has never been and will never be a part of my diet. I think I remember my husband saying that his dad loved it–and ate it while in the army. A recipe does appear in old army cooking manuals at least as far back as 1910. Dried beef, of course, goes back even farther in time, but perhaps not creamed.
Merril, I think you have mentioned that making hearty soups stirs your imagination as you write/research in your kitchen. Dried beef is cured beef, so it makes sense that a recipe using it as an ingredient appears in army cooking manuals. Your research often matches my blog post themes. How fortuitous that it happened again today!
Yes, Marion, the dried beef gravy was a regular part of our menu when I was a child, and I still occasionally make it. We called it chipped beef and used the Buddig beef pack found in the luncheon meat section of the grocery store. Our recipe uses the roux as you described, of course butter and milk, always on toast (preferably made in the oven, not the toaster). Once when my husband I I were driving through Pennsylvania we came across a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant so we pulled in and found Dried Beef Gravy on the menu and ordered it. Didn\’t taste quite the same as mine, but very delicious. I always put a little pinch of sugar in mine – something I picked up from my Grandmother who put just a little pinch of sugar in every recipe it seemed like 🙂 She was from Pennsylvania.
Kathy, I believe you grew up in Jacksonville, so once again, this recipe is universal. I like the little tweaks to your recipe, toasting in the oven, not a toaster.
I didn\’t know that your grandmother was from Pennsylvania. Those cooks never go easy on the sugar or the butter! Your comments are welcome anytime.
Yes, my mother from the Pacific Northwest made this for us and I\’m sure she got the recipe from her mother from Minnesota and then her mother from New Brunswick. I don\’t remember her preparing it on mashed potatoes, but rather toast. I\’d forgotten about that recipe and I should include it for weekend evening meals this fall and winter. We love gravy in our house.
The thing about creamed dried beef is that it\’s so hearty and filling to the tummy. Thanks to your other comments, I have certainly been disabused of any thought that this is a strictly PA Dutch recipe.
Aw, dried beef and gravy. I loved making and eating it my children love it. I made mine the same as you did, but I would serve it with French fries sprinkled with salt and apple cider vinegar. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Then later I would have a dessert of a cherry crisp over ice cream. Those were the days of great eating. We still eat great meals now but they\’re more Spanish meals. I have to find dried beef here to serve it to my family. I fried my potatoes in peanut oil to bring the taste of fresher French Fries from Ocean City, Maryland. How I love the east coast. I ask God if he plans to move me again to move me back to Pennsylvania. Thank you again for the memories! Have a nice day.
You are a wonderful cook and your menus sound tasty but a little high on the calorie count just like mine – ha!
Yes, that\’s why we had it just once in a while. I haven\’t had it for years but will look for dried beef to make for my grandchildren. Thanks again for the great memory.
You\’re welcome, Gloria.
This was one of my favorites when I was a kid and it still would be if I was gluten tolerant. But alas, I can only dream about it now!
Joan, I believe you grew up in Vermont, so that tells me something more about the origins of the recipe. Thanks for clicking here today.
This post and photos are especially interesting to me as I have never — ever — in my life even heard of creamed dried beef, or anything like it. Clearly, I live under a rock!
Two of my favorite dishes that mom made were clearly “comfort” foods: Shepherd’s pie, and what we called “porcupine” meatballs. Here’s the recipe for the meatballs:
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound ground turkey or beef
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
In a bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Add beef and mix well. Shape into 1-1/2-in. balls. In a large skillet, brown meatballs in oil; drain. Combine tomato sauce, water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce; pour over meatballs. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour. Yield: 4-6 servings.
I haven\’t made porcupine meatballs in ages, but I think I did when the children were small. They were amused by the rice pieces that poked out of the meatballs as they browned. Using toothpicks when serving them also adds to the effect. Readers will appreciate your effort in typing up this recipe. Double thanks, Laurie.
We sure had this often when I was growing up. My Aunt Miriam Kraybill made the best ever! She would serve it on an English muffin. BTW my oldest daughter loved porcupine meatballs.
Hello, Donna. Thank you for reminding us dried beef gravy works with any starch/carbohydrate. I\’m guessing an English muffin has fewer carbs than mashed potatoes, especially if the cook is heavy with the butter and cream.
We ate that as kids, but I didn\’t like it. This is a nice blog, so I won\’t mess it up with what we called it, but mama served it over toast and she called it s—- on a shingle. That might be why we didn\’t like it.
Beef on Baked Bread? You\’ll think of something more appetizing, I\’m sure.
Ah! Another childhood memory: creamed chipped beef on toast. Loved it. Wonderful comfort food. I haven\’t cooked it, Marian. But I have cooked a variation of Laurie Buchanan\’s Shepherd\’s Pie. I adapted Richard Simmon\’s Mayflower Shepherd\’s Pie – adding celery and corn, and grated sharp cheddar cheese (rather than grated Parmesan cheese). His recipe is lower in calories, very filling and yummy!
Hmmm, I haven\’t seen Richard Simmons around for a while. He used to be all over TV, but I don\’t remember any of his recipes. The name Mayflower Shepherd\’s Pie sounds appropriate for the season, and I like the idea of celery and corn with cheese to bind it all. This I\’d like to try too.
If you want the recipe, I can e-mail it to you. Hopefully, it\’s on the internet. 😉
I got it. Thank you, Judy.
We eat chipped beef on toast, but not so much anymore because of the saltiness. I remember my Grandmother use to dry the beef herself. Later on we bought it in the glass jars. We always had peas with it.
Grandma soaked the dried beef in water to reduce the salt content. Not for very long….maybe 20 minutes and then would drain it.
Good tip, Donna. I might try the 20-minute soak the next time, no doubt less spike in blood pressure with reduced salt.
Your Grandmother must have been an industrious woman, drying the beef herself. Peas are the right color and texture to balance the dried beef, I agree. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Athanasia.
Yes, I have no real memories of this, just family stories.
I wanted to comment as soon as I saw this in my email inbox but couldn\’t right then. That is so interesting that you always served it/had it served with peas–certainly what my mother did too. When I tried to make it for my husband early in our marriage he said no thank you, even though he loves other gravies. Maybe too salty and not from his Virginia background. I love the Mennonite Community Cookbook connection–I may be back to you later to repost on a new page we\’re (Herald Press) starting for a year long 65th anniversary edition of the cookbook to launch next January. Are you game, Marian?? This would be so perfect.
Has it been 65 years since the first edition of the Mennonite Community Cookbook? It was the only printed cookbook my 3 Aunties (Fannie, Elizabeth and Emily Kraybill) in Mount Joy used. I do not remember my Grandma Shearer using another printed cookbook. Now they used shared recipe that may be on brown paper bags or paper and I have one of the ones someone wrote…..strange recipes!
Donna, thanks for chiming in on this thread! Would you be willing to write a bit more about the history with your 3 Aunties and Grandma Shearer for our use over on Mennobytes blog? Would you have a picture of Grandma Shearer\’s cookbook or your grandma cookbook? Excited to find another story!
Of course, Melodie. I assume you are talking about using the content of this post in some way. Also, I remember you expressed interest in using the photo of my mother smiling and ready to serve pig stomach, which I see is also featured in the Mennonite Community Cookbook with an italicized subtitle of Dutch Goose.
Thank you for this reminder of the photo of your mother!! I remember it, and likely would have found it in my notes, but yes, for sure, we would love to share that too. I\’ll put it in my file and contact you later about specifics and when. Wonderful \”gut\”!
I grew up eating dried beef gravy on toast and then I made it for my own family when our children were young and grocery money was scarce! Now, my mouth is watering for it so I\’m going to buy some dried beef next time I go grocery shopping! Thanks for reminding me of my childhood once again! It\’s not just for Mennonites…my mother grew up Norwegian Lutheran!
. . . and anyone that likes good cooking, Anita. I\’m glad this post whetted your appetite for dried beef gravy. It tastes so wonderful on a cool, fall day whether you are Mennonite, Lutheran, or something else all together.
I\’m vegetarian and will stick to veggie soup.
I respect that, Fiona. As a matter of fact, I have just finished \”brewing\” a large pot of 15-bean soup with garlic, onions, and stewed tomatoes. After I add chives and a dab of Worchestershire sauce, I think you\’d love it. Thanks for commenting!
Mrs. Murphy, the cook at my German-Lutheran school, made from-scratch meals for us. My favorite was baked chicken and mashed potatoes with butter. My least favorite was \”chipped\” beef and gravy over toast. But, I was a ridiculously finicky eater.
I\’ve since become a person who enjoys all varieties of food. I don\’t know, however, whether or not I want to try dried beef and gravy. I think it\’s a nostalgia/memory food, like macaroni and cheese. If you loved it in the past, you love it now.
You take lovely photographs, Marian. 🙂
I believe you are right about some foods being nostalgia/memory foods. Thank you for reading/commenting/complimenting this post, Tracy. I certainly hope your computer problems are in the past – full speed ahead!
Chipped beef? Dried beef? Lean mince? The recipe got my tummy rumbling Marian but I suspect it may be too rich for me. I know that when we were kids (when Moses was a boy) we ate fish and chicken, seldom meat. Whether it was too expensive (although in those days probably not) or from choice I do not remember. Barley soup and soups in which your spoon would stand up straight. Veg from the garden … no wonder I like junk food so much … though I try to eat sensibly. Porridge for breakfast e.g. Even if raw oats softened with juice, sometimes milk and especially CREAM.
From the healthy foods you list, I suspect you have few ailments. Mother always cooked with robust recipes, as you can tell – lots of butter and cream too. Thanks for offering your menus here, Susan.
I\’ve never even heard if this never mind tried it. The calories in the butter made me wince a little though so I think I\’d better give it a miss although it sounds good.
It sounds like you have a lot of self-discipline. I do remember the title of your previous blog: \”Fat-girl-slim\” which suggests you still mind your calories — and your figure. Thanks, Marie!
I found your blog because of its connection to Mennonite Community Cookbook (this post and the pig stomach post are both fantastic) – a book that is being re-released on Feb 2 by Herald Press. While I would love to share some of your stories and recipes that involve the cookbook on its Facebook page, I also wanted to see if we could use your content for a guest blog post on Mennonite Community Cookbook\’s website (check it out here: http://mennonitecommunitycookbook.com/). Another opportunity is to use your photos in our contest related to the book\’s release, and enter a drawing for a Herald Press cookbook (our contest list is here: http://mennonitecommunitycookbook.com/contest-calendar/). Please contact me if you\’re interested in any of these possibilities!
All the best. Happy blogging (and cooking)!
Intern at Herald Press/MennoMedia
Ben, I am interested in all of the above. As you can see, I have a loyal following many of whom loving cooking and recipes. I will try to contact you by email and we can go from there concerning your interest in a guest blog post and use of photos in the contest.