By Sharon Thompson

McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT)

The gravy that most often tops breakfast biscuits is white and full of sausage. But some Southern households serve a different kind of gravy, and it evokes as many fond memories as a warm hug from Grandma.

When we asked readers to share their recipes and memories, dozens responded. A chocolate gravy recipe is a prized inheritance among people who live in Appalachia and the Deep South. The usual response from people who live outside the area is, "What's that?"

Sauceman's theory on chocolate gravy is that when Hershey's cocoa first started appearing on shelves of country stores, cooks devised ways to make meals, not just desserts, using the precious powder in the brown, silver-topped can.

"After all, breakfast biscuits had always soaked up sweetness. Sorghum syrup surrounded them when sugar got scarce. And when the sugar bin was full, mountain people drowned their biscuits in coffee and sprinkled them with Dixie Crystals to create 'soakin's.'"

"My mom used to always fix Sunday morning breakfast before church — which was usually just a big bowl of scrambled eggs for scrambled egg sandwiches. Every now and then, though, she would make chocolate gravy, and that would get us out of bed fast. Neither of my grandmothers made me chocolate gravy, but my dad says that when he and his brother were growing up, his mother made both white and chocolate gravy every morning. I'm guessing that since my dad loved it so much, my mom started making it for him and then subsequently their kids too."

She even has suggestions for just how you should eat your gravy.

"This is big," Hart said. "You have to crumble your biscuits; you can't just split your biscuit into two pieces. If you crumble, then the gravy can really saturate better. At our house, we've noticed that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law-both Democrats — split their biscuits while the rest of us — all Republicans — crumble. Who knows if that means anything."

"I'm not really sure why I love it so much; maybe because it was such a treat when my mom made it," Hart said. "Sometimes, she would even make it for supper. I can eat it anytime.

"When my nieces spend the night with me, one wants white gravy and the other wants chocolate; like my grandmother, I've been known to make both. Mine is nowhere near as good as my mom's — no one has even remotely made it as good as hers," Hart said.

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CHOCOLATE GRAVY

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa (Droste cocoa Dutch-processed)

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa and flour together in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, slowly adding milk and butter. Stir constantly to remove any lumps that form. When the mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency, remove from heat and add vanilla.

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CHOCOLATE GRAVY

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons cocoa

6 tablespoons flour

4 teaspoons margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups milk

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large saucepan. Add milk, margarine and vanilla. Heat and stir until thickened. Serve over hot (scratch) biscuits.

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TENNESSEE CHOCOLATE GRAVY

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups milk

Melt butter in skillet. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add vanilla and milk to dry ingredients. (They might mix better if put into a jar with a lid and shaken well.) Pour into skillet with melted butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Serve with hot biscuits.

Makes 2 cups.

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This was one of her specialties, and most people have never heard of it," Cable said. "I have made it but not very often because I am not a big chocolate fan. Our friend Marie would make a big batch of biscuits, and everyone would spoon the chocolate gravy over the biscuits. Really it's just like a chocolate pudding.

CHOCOLATE GRAVY

3 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon butter

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until thickened (about 5 minutes). Pour over biscuits.

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CHOCOLATE GRAVY

1/2 cup of sugar

4 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons cocoa

11/2 cups 2 percent milk (not skimmed)

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly, then add milk. Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat. When it starts bubbling, remove from heat and add vanilla.

Makes 2 generous servings.

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CHOCOLATE GRAVY

2 heaping tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

Water

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons butter

Mix together dry ingredients in a large saucepan. (The thicker the pan, the better, so as not to burn.) Pour in milk and bring to a boil, adding water to desired consistency.

When it's a little thicker than pudding, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

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CHOCOLATE GRAVY

1/4 cup butter

4 tablespoons cocoa

6 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons flour

Dash salt

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in a skillet and add dry ingredients. Stir well and cook for one minute. Add milk and vanilla. Cook until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. Serve hot over biscuits.

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"I am now 66 years old and have made it many times for my children and now for their children. It has always been a favorite of ours," Childers said.

CHOCOLATE GRAVY

4 tablespoons flour

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a saucepan and add milk. Bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Serve over hot biscuits and butter.