Monday, March 9, 2009

Yummy! Grits...

Living in the south requires very little, but the acceptance of grits as a food group is essential! Ok, maybe not essential, but you need to expect grits to be an option at every breakfast offering.

We southerners know automatically when you're not from the south by how you respond to the word "grits". If you crinkle your nose and say "What? What is that?" you've given yourself away as a foreigner, i.e. someone not from the south. If you are doing that at this moment we won't tell anyone, just come along on the grits information super highway. (Sounds impressive doesn't it?)

Grits 101 -

Grits are also known as polenta (a popular term to get you to pay a higher price) or porridge. Grits are what is leftover after grinding corn for meal. The finer meal is skimmed off for baking and what is left is the "grit".

Back in the 1600-1800s in America there were grist mills in every community. When your harvest came in, you took your grain to the mill for processing. The best meal was reserved for baking and the remnants were used as some form of cereal. Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat have the same origin. All can be interchangeably called porridge.

This should serve as an example for us today. There was very little waste, if any, during processing back then. You used or sold everything you could from your crop or animal.

Southerners grew a lot of corn. It was cheap, easy to save the seed, requires little tending once planted, and can be used as human or animal feed. I suppose that's why we're known for corn bread and grits.


Have you ever eaten grits? I used to enjoy a piping hot bowl topped with a pat of butter every morning as a child. My son ate grits, as a baby, in place of the standard rice cereal. Depending on what you add during the preparation and how long you cook them, you can have coarse or smooth and creamy grits. My personal preference is toward the coarse end. If they're too smooth and creamy it's like eating cream of wheat.

Sometimes I would eat Quaker Instant Grits and occasionally my Grandmother would pick up fresh grits at the mill. The later were my favorite! They tasted more like corn and had that nice coarse texture. Now, I buy from the mill in bulk and freeze family size portions individually. This enables us to have that fresh grit taste without worrying about bugs or staleness of the grain.

Here's the Nora Mill Grits Recipe:

Basic Grits Recipe

1 cup grits

3 cups water

salt and margarine to taste

Bring 3 cups of water (add salt and butter at this time) to a rapid boil in a heavy saucepan. Add grits and stir until water boils again. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes stirring often and adding water if necessary. Add salt and butter if you have not already done so.

These are the changes that I make:

I exchange 2 cups of water for 2 cups of whole milk. Bring this mixture to a simmer rather than a rolling boil. Continue as noted above.

Cook for 15 minutes for coarse and the full 20 minutes for the creamier variety. Decrease this time by 5 minutes if you intend on letting the grits stand before serving, as they will continue to cook once you cut off the burner. The grits will plump up as you cook them, similar to cooking rice.

Be sure to add some salt. If you don't, these taste like paste. You may try adding the salt to the individual bowl versus the pot.

Also, don't ruin your grits with margarine! Yuk! Please give it a try with real butter. This adds a nice creaminess to the texture that you just don't get with fake butter. I'll even go Paula Deen on you...put in enough butter to turn the grits a light yellow.

Oh! The last personal note - there is nothing like fresh cracked black pepper on top. It adds a layer of flavor to the grits and compliments the coarse texture of freshly ground grits.

Serve these piping hot and enjoy until your heart is content!

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