Grits are typically associated with the South and considered to be not only the ultimate comfort food, but an integral part of breakfast.
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.
There are four types of grits:
1) 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.
2) Hominy Grits- the hull and germ have been removed
3) Quick Grits are ground fine. Regular grits have a medium grind. They are both processed to cook quickly and last longer on store shelves.
4) Instant Grits have been precooked and dehydrated. It is often said that no self-respecting southerner would eat instant grits.
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.
Quick and Regular grits take 5 to 15 minutes to cook.
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.
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, cream and cheese (if using) at the end.
At Charred Oaks Inn, a Lexington, Kentucky Select Registry Bed and Breakfast, we use Quick Grits for a breakfast dish and flavor it with Irish butter and heavy cream. We offer a made-to-order breakfast menu where guests can mix and match starters, entrees and/or sides. Our grits can be found on the menu under sides, but can easily be converted to an entree. As an entree, we top the dish of creamy, buttery grits with diced pancetta, chopped tomatoes and an egg of choice. The inn is open year round and breakfast is served from 8AM -10AM in the Dining Room or if preferred, in bed.