Is there anything more southern than grits? For most southerners they are an integral part of breakfast. A hot plate of creamy grits is pure comfort food. Outside of the south, little is known about grits. Continue reading and you’ll learn just about all you need to know about this quintessential southern food.
What Are Grits?
Grits are made from dried, mature corn kernels that are ground into smaller coarse bits. They are very similar to Italian polenta, but the two are typically made from very different types of corn and the fineness of the grind is also different. Polenta is more coarse.
Types of Grits
- Stone Ground Grits
- Hominy Grits
- Quick Grits
- Instant Grits
Stone-Ground Grits aren’t always easy to find, especially outside of the south, but they seem to be making a comeback. They are pretty much made the way grits were made in the nineteenth century.
Hominy Grits- the hull and germ have been removed
Quick Grits are ground fine. Regular grits have a medium grind. They are both processed to cook quickly and last longer on store shelves.
Instant Grits have been precooked and dehydrated. It is often said that no self-respecting southerner would eat instant grits.
Some Favorite Stone-Ground Grits
Anson Mills– very popular among southern chefs.
Geechi Boy– family run business located in Edisto, SC.
Palmetto Farms – This is one of my favorite to use because it can be easily ordered from Amazon.com.
History of Grits
Grits have their roots in Native American culture. Native Americans would grind dried corn and make it into a mush. It is believed the name “grits” comes from the Old English word “grit” which means coarse meal. Gristmills, which turned locally grown corn into grits and cornmeal, used to be numerous in the south. They were often powered by water and stones were used to grind the corn down. Grits became a staple of southern cooking not only for their nutritional value, but because they were inexpensive.
Interestingly, the phrase “Nose to the Grindstone” comes from this process. It was essential that sense of smell be used to carefully monitor the process because stone grinding generates a great deal of heat and can cook the corn.
In the late 1800s many grist mills replaced stone grinding with steel-rollers.
How To Cook Grits
- Quick and Regular grits take 5 to 15 minutes to cook; Stone-Ground Grits can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
- Stone-ground Grits can be soaked in water overnight, but it is not necessary.
- Always salt the water. Cooked grits do not pick up the flavor of salt very well.
- Cook in a ratio of 1 cup grits to 4 cups liquid.
- Grits can be cooked in water or a mixture of water and chicken broth or a mixture of water and milk (half and half or cream)
- There is no right or wrong when it comes to consistency of grits; some like thick grits, others like them a little runny.
- Bring liquid to a boil and gradually whisk in grits. Continue to whisk for at least 30 seconds to avoid clumping.
- Covering grits while they cook will reduce cooking time.
- Grits should be cooked at a simmer.
- Grits should be stirred periodically while they cook to prevent sticking and clumping.
- If grits are getting too thick, add more liquid.
- Stir in butter and cheese (if using) at the end.
- Stone-Ground Grits are very perishable and should be stored in the freezer.
Recipes With Grits
Crock Pot Grits – One of the easiest ways to cook grits. Put them in the crock pot before you go to bead and the next morning you have warm grits ready to go!
Cream Cheese Grits – a touch a cream cheese makes these grits super creamy!
Shrimp and Grits – turn grits into a sophisticated dinner with this easy recipe. Interestingly, Shrimp and Grits began as a simple breakfast food for fishermen, but now has become a gourmet meal served at many upscale restaurants.
Grits Fritters with Red Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce – made from cheese grits with bacon, corn, and green onions. Coated in Panko crumbs and deep fried until crispy. Such a great southern appetizer.
Gifts For Grit Lovers
Glorious Grits: America’s Favorite Comfort Food is full of beautiful pictures and well-written recipes including Huevos Rancheros on Cilantro-Grits Cakes and Southwestern Grits Stuffed Peppers. You won’t believe all the possibilities for grits!
Shrimp and Grits served every which way. This Shrimp and Grits cookbook from one of the South’s most prolific cookbook authors includes such recipes as Grits Waffles and Squash and Apple Soup with Shrimp and Grits Cakes.
Grits Bits are a southern snack food made in Georgia. These delicious baked snack biscuits with Vidalia onion and cheese are perfect for serving with a glass of wine.
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