The Many Faces of Cornmeal
Cornmeal comes in a variety of textures. For cornbread we use a fine grind. For grits or polenta we use a coarse grind. (Please note that we did not develop the recipe with grits made from hominy; some grits are made from hominy, some from cornmeal. Canned hominy has only recently been lab tested by Monash University and dried hominy has not as of yet.)
Shopping for them can be confusing as every manufacturer seems to use a different term.
One company’s polenta is another’s grits and yet another will just say coarse cornmeal. Best to look at the texture before you buy, if you can. No matter what they are called, we do prefer stone-ground.
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Two Main Ingredients – Cornmeal and Liquid of Choice!
Grits are simply cornmeal simmered with milk or water and they can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some sort of savory seasoning is typical – from simple salt and pepper to the addition of cheese, as in Cheesy Grits – or a nice pat of butter.
For breakfast we have been known to drizzle maple syrup on top and a crumble of bacon to go along with a friend egg.
Patience is Definitely a Virtue!
Any which way you have to make up a batch of the basic grits and it couldn’t be easier. You just need a heavy bottomed pot and patience. Some folks like milk, others water, and yet another contingent that likes a combo. It’s your choice, just make sure your milk is lactose free if you go that route.
Just stick with the amount of liquid in proportion with the cornmeal. And of course, those made entirely or partially with milk will be richer. We find milk isn’t always necessary but your taste buds will tell.
This batch makes a lot but there are recommendations below in Tips to help you with any leftovers. You like ours fried the next day! Or alongside a Pork Ragu!
You can find some of our favorite varieties of cornmeal grits in our Shop.
This is simply coarse ground cornmeal cooked until it is a thick but flowable texture. Perfect for breakfast with butter and maple syrup or for serving alongside pot roast, pork ragu or saucy shrimp dishes.
- Place liquid and 1 teaspoon salt in a large heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Sprinkle cornmeal in slowly, whisking all the while until it is all added and cornmeal is combined with liquid. Turn heat down to low until the mixture barely simmers and whisk frequently - almost constantly - until mixture is thickened and smooth. As the liquid absorbs and the mixture thickens you will be able to see whisk marks in the grits, but do not overcook. The mixture should remain fluid; you want the mixture to be able to flow from a spoon. Total cooking time will be about 20 to 25 minutes and they should be creamy and tender. Do not rush cooking or the grits will not soften adequately. Add more liquid if necessary if they firm up to quickly.
- Remove from heat and whisk in butter until incorporated. Taste and season generously with pepper and more salt, if desired.
- While freshly made grits are the best - they firm up tremendously upon cooling - you can make them up to two hours ahead and reheat them if absolutely necessary. Add a bit of water to the grits and place over low heat. Stir to re-loosen the grits, incorporate with the water and heat until hot all the way through. Serve immediately.
- Grits have a tendency to stick to the pot. A heavy bottomed pot, that conducts heat evenly, is your best bet and if it has rounded corners, you will be able to stay in contact with the grits as you stir and whisk, further eliminating the potential for sticking or burning.
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more. For a more detailed explanation, please read our article Understanding The Nutrition Panel Within Our Recipes.
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