According to Judy

by Judy Schultz

Down here in New Zealand, we have something called the New Years Honours List. The media have hours of fun with it.

It starts with a proclamation: “Her Majesty has been pleased, on the celebration of the New Year, to make the following appointments,” …blah blah and so forth.

The Honours List Down Under includes doctors, lawyers, Maori chiefs. In fact, almost anybody who makes enough noise, from dog-groomers to sausagemakers, can be knighted. Sir Peter Leitch, aka The Mad Butcher, was knighted because he made wonderful sausage for his chain of meat shops. And there’s Dame Alison Holst, a woman best known for being a terrific cook.

Maybe nobody has informed Queen Liz that other good cooks are thick on the ground down here. Dame Judith does have a certain ring to it, yes?

Sadly, Canadians aren’t eligible for knighthoods. (That’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it.) Conrad Black wanted to be Lord Black, and renounced his Canadian citizenship. He’ll never get it back. And I’ll never be Dame Judith.

Yet, in certain circles I do have a title.

I’m known as the Goddess of Gravy. The Diva of Drippings.

During the recent feasting season, starting with the Thanksgiving bird and running straight through New Year’s Day, my gravy graced two turkeys, a chicken, a duck, three pheasants and selected parts of a Canada goose. Not all on the same day, but still, it was a lot of gravy, and it was delicious.

The bird’s the thing, and we’ll get to that, but of greater import is the base, a stock so rich and redolent it defies words.

The secret? Vegetables, beginning with the holy trinity of gravy: onions, celery with leaves and carrots. A big whack of rutabaga for sweetness, plus one tiny parsnip. Parsnip tastes faintly of turpentine but it does add a certain je ne sais quoi, so in it goes, along with half a sweet potato and a mitful of parsley; a few sage leaves; a branch of rosemary, same of thyme.

Simmer slowly in a big pot of water. When the water is reduced by half, strain it into a plastic container that goes in the freezer. Voila, the Magic Stock Box. Money in the bank. Vegetarians could stop here, add a smidge of miso, and use it to improve their wretched Tofurkey.

Now to the bird. Suppose it’s a turkey, a goose or even two ducks. Whatever birdbits aren’t destined for the serving platter – wings, neck, pope’s nose, gizzard, heart, liver – should be slow-roasted along with a leek and a slice of bacon until it’s all brown and crispy. Discard the roasted liver; any passing cat will take it off your hands. Add a good glug each of water and whatever wine you have open and simmer until brown bits and drippings dissolve. Strain into your Magic Stock Box, which will now contain roughly two litres. Back to the freezer with it.

The rest is easy. Whenever the spirit moves you, roast a bird. Decant drippings into a pot, add thawed contents of the MSB and thicken as you wish. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Mmm, tasty. Houston, we have gravy.


Judy Schultz loves gravy. She divides her time between Alberta and New Zealand.