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Feeding the Multitude: Quantity Cooking–Sausage Gravy

October 11, 2016

Quantity cooking – Sausage gravy

In the years since I began working with a team of people at MennoMedia to help syndicate Lovina Eicher’s Amish Kitchen newspaper column, I’ve become not only a faithful reader but a star struck fan in wonderment of how does she do it—especially when it comes to cooking for a wedding crowd? How does any woman manage to pull together a menu, stock the supplies (to say nothing of paying for it all), to feed upwards of 1000 meals all in one day: the day your daughter or son gets married, no less? Most of it is all homemade from scratch. How do they handle the last minute panics of “oh no, someone bought this kind of flour or sugar rather than that, or the order list said this rather than that?”



Stuart cooking sausages 2016.

I got my own dip into quantity cooking the other week helping with the Lions Club Pancake Days that have been a tradition in the little town of Broadway, Va. for at least 30 or more years. My husband talked me—no, volunteered me into—making the homemade sausage gravy (no mix for this Lions Club, no sireee). Our faithful normal gravy maker had to be out of town at a Lions state convention for the second half of our planned Pancake Days so my husband sweetly said he thought I could do it.

Thus I got to learn the ropes first hand from John Knepper, our seasoned sausage gravy maker—always the best way to learn to cook a new dish.

In this case it wasn’t a matter of me learning to cook a new dish: ever since we began our involvement with the Lions and I learned to love sausage gravy on pancakes (the topic of my very first post for this blog back in 2013!), and make it regularly particularly in the fall and winter. The quantity aspect was what was new—and daunting. Would I run out of gravy at a critical time and there would be folks in line yammering for their gravy—an abundance of pancakes and sausages cooling all the while? Would I scorch a batch? Would it turn lumpy and be ruined?

The answers are no, no, and no, thank the sausage gravy angels of the universe. The gravy by all accounts was delicious; we had people wondering what was the name of the mix we used, and when we told them it was homemade, not a mix, one woman looked triumphantly at her table mates declaring, “I’ll have to tell the team at our church!” Score, score.

Here, shared with permission from the true gravy maker, John Knepper, is how to feed the multitude delicious homemade gravy (and if you count the milk, this gravy is more like a creamed sausage soup than a greasy gravy).

JohnKnepperGravyJohn Knepper stirring his famous and great sausage gravy. Photo courtesy of Dawn Turner from 2014.

And if you’re going eeewww, “Pancakes are eaten with syrup, not gravy!” you can do the way many Broadway Lions Club Pancake Days fans do: eat your first course of pancakes as a meal with gravy, and your second course with syrup, for dessert. Viola! At home I serve fresh fruit after these two courses for a more nutritious dessert.

The answer about how Lovina or any Amish woman or man who helps cook for a wedding feeding 400-500 people for lunch, and then feeding another 400-500 for an evening meals is: You. Are. Exhausted. Period. And you need help from others cleaning up the very large mess made by quantity cooking. But the adrenaline rush from successfully managing to cook and feed a large number of people in a short amount of time is not only rewarding, but addicting, and you know you’ll enjoy doing it again. Next year.

You might enjoy Jennifer Murch’s account of how she masterminded the making of 12,000 homemade yeast raised donuts for our local Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale recently!

P.S. Since I was focused on making gravy and not taking pictures, I don’t have many pictures. But here’s how I serve it at home.


Sausage Gravy – large quantity – recipe from John Knepper

Makes one large kettle serving 40-50 people, depending on how much gravy they want dolloped onto their pancakes. See size of kettle John is using.

1 – 1 ¼ pound high quality sausage (not a lot of fatty content. I use Gunnoes. For this pancake sale, we buy from a local meat warehouser called Gore’s.)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon pepper

Brown 1- 1 ¼ pound sausage in one cup vegetable oil in skillet. Mix in flour and mix and heat well, stirring and mashing down with spatula to keep out lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once flour/sausage mixture is well mixed and browned, stir in 1 gallon whole milk. Stir continuously allowing it to heat until bubbly and thickened over medium heat. Do not to let it scorch. Completed gravy usually stays very hot once removed from fire, although we use a warming commercial buffet line to keep pancakes, sausages and gravy hot as people come through the lines.

(To reheat gravy that has been refrigerated reheat in small batches, stirring very frequently or continuously. Add small amounts of boiling water as needed to help thin it down, which also helps reheat it more quickly.)

And here is my much smaller quantity recipe from an early blog post.

Sausage Gravy – small quantity

1/3 lb. Gunnoes whole hog sausage, mild (or the highest quality favorite sausage you can buy)
1 Tb. shortening – Crisco as needed, or fat remaining from frying sausage
1/3 c. regular flour
1-1/2 c. water or milk
1/4. tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper


Additional notes on prep time, etc.

For a “Shrove Sunday” pancake brunch at church 2018, made large 6 quart batch gravy:

Began frying sausage in oil 7 a.m.
When brown, added flour, salt, pepper 7:20 a.m.
Added milk in small increments, heating slowly and stirring almost constantly.
Gravy finished cooking up about 8:00 a.m.

Left for church at 8:30 a.m.

Stuart cooked sausages at medium 300 degrees on the griddle. Started about 9:30 a.m. for 10:45 brunch serving.


My mother always hated to work in crowded church kitchens to prepare meals.

Do you enjoy quantity cooking? Why or why not?


If you know of newspapers who might be interested in carrying Lovina’s Amish Kitchen newspaper column, here is contact info


The Mennonite Community Cookbook is known for its section on cooking enough food for a barn raising. You might want to check it out! 

Mennonite Community Cookbook/65th Anniv


From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. Hats off to Lovina for quantity cooking and to you for publishing all the details.

  2. I do like working with others, even if personalities come out. A great way to get to know others in a club, church or organization better. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Where I live, on a Hutterite colony, there’s a lot of quantity cooking. Since I work in our school, I don’t get to do a whole lot of it, but years ago I did and for the most part enjoyed it. If you’ve read my book, Hutterite Diaries you know my dishes sometimes turned into disasters. Yes, that would mean quantity disaster where I live.

    • Linda, thanks for adding your “quantity disaster” quip. Love it! I’ve got to go back to your book and find out more! 🙂

  4. MARY CARDI permalink

    1 1/4 lbs of sausage to feed 40-50 people?
    Most recipe call foe up to 3lbs
    Pls help!
    I am feeding 40 people.

    • Hope this reaches you in time: This is a recipe for gravy. The sausage is just a small but important part of it. It makes the gravy very tasty. If you wish to add more, feel free, perhaps 3 lbs sausage in the gravy would suit your group. Good luck!

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