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Perhaps all you eG'ers from the wonderful southern part of the US can help out a poor Yankee.

Every time I order grits, not cheesy grits, nor shrimp and grits, just plain old regular grits, what I end up with is largely a woefully underseasoned bowl of boiled coarse cornmeal with either a hunk of butter or margarine floating on top, slowly melting. I find that I normally need to add quite a bit of salt just to make them taste good to my palate.

Before I bemoan the state of grit preparation in northeastern Ohio, I would like to know from those who might be much more experienced than I:

1) If you order "plain" grits, is this how they are served in the south?

2) Are savory versions of grits (like cheesy grits) seasoned with extra salt in addition to the salt that is inherent in the cheese so that the resulting dish would be more in line with what one would consider "proper" seasoning?

3) Is there a proper way to order "seasoned" grits?

I really do enjoy a nice bowl of grits once I add salt, but what invariably comes out of the kitchen always has the flavor of spackling.

Please help this Northern Boy understand the nuances of proper grit preparation and ordering etiquette.

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If I order grits, I always expect to have to add salt and pepper to my own taste. But GOOD grits (not quick or - horrors - instant), should come with some seasoning already added. Grits need LOTS of salt and pepper and I personally think that a few dashes of hot sauce is necessary. Cheese grits may not need as much salt, but still need a good dose of pepper and hot sauce. I'm making a cheese grits souffle tomorrow morning (ye gods, actually THIS morning) for my parents and the recipe calls for 3/4 t. salt to 1/2 c. uncooked grits, but I'm sure it will need more.

If the grits you order taste like "spackling" instead of corn, then I suspect you are getting instant or quick grits. Try making them at home and see what you think.

Edited by Kim Shook (log)
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Typically we salt the grits and add lots of butter while cooking. Everything after is a condiment. Cheese, Bacon, Ham, Sausage, Shrimps, Sugar, Maple Syrup, all compliment grits nicely. Grits in general are a great canvas on which to paint your masterpiece. Follow kim's advise and get yourself some real old fashioned stone milled grits. Season with salt, add lots of butter, and slowly simmer while stirring often. Then I suggest trying different toppings to see what you like on your grits.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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Having endured the horror that is Ohio grits, closely akin to their idea of chili, I can almost assure you those were instant grits or at least 5 minute version. I am betting instant. Grits, no matter the final presentation, require seasoning. Only the best of freshly ground grits can stand alone IMHO. Even then salt is needed.

Google Logan's Mill here in Ga and order my friend. Then, in the half hour or more that it take to properly cook grits, make the redeye gravy.

Edited by Doodad (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Another great grits source: War Eagle Mill in NW Arkansas, www.wareaglemill.com, which has a sizeable variety of not only cereals and whole grains, but lots of flours and meals and jellies and jams and preserves.

My personal favorite grits are the old-fashioned ones, seasoned with salt and bacon fat during the cooking phase, cheese of choice stirred in, and topped with a couple of over-easy eggs fried in the fat from the bacon or sausage you're serving alongside it....and a big fluffy cathead biscuit with butter and fig or pear preserves. (Points to anyone who knows what a cathead biscuit is.)

Don't ask. Eat it.

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And yet another source is Hoppin' Johns. HJ sells stone-ground white grits and they always seem fresh. He suggests storing them in the freezer, and I do.

I start my grits with a T butter, some salt, and water, but then add about a cup total of milk and/or half and half during the cooking process. I sometimes add cheese (toward the end, along with more butter, more salt and pepper) if I'm not having any other protein with my grits. I usually don't add cheese if I'm making shrimp 'n' grits. I like to make a simple fresh spicy tomato salsa that works with or without the shrimp.

I love cheesy grits with salsa for breakfast. Of course it's always a temptation to have leftover plain grits with maple syrup, etc. Recently I tried breakfast grits with Shagbark Hickory syrup and that was pretty yummy.

I can certainly see subbing bacon fat for some of the butter, although I never have. Another way I like to cook grits is to add some creamy type of chevre when the grits are close to done. Then I pour the grits (or some portion I don't plan on eating immediately) into a form to make about an inch-thick slab, or slightly less. I cut it in squares the next day and fry in butter (or whatever) until it's crispy on the outside and melty on the inside. If it's summer, I often put it on the grill.

And it just so happens I do know what a cathead biscuit is, but I've never eaten one nor have I ever been in the south. My husband is working on his biscuit technique (tonight, if fact) but hasn't progressed to catheads yet.

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  • 1 month later...

My former MIL, (whom I love), often served grits for breakfast with canned tuna or salmon. I've never seen this mentioned anywhere before. Now that I live in SC, I'll start them w/stock and add cream/half&half when fixing them for any meal besides breakfast.

Burgundy makes you think silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them ---

Brillat-Savarin

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  • 4 weeks later...

So...being a pseudo-southern boy (moved here when I was four....but, as they say down here, living here doesn't really make you a southerner.....if a cat had kittens in the oven, you wouldn't call them biscuits)...I have to object. If you're starting your "grits" with stock...then they're not grits. They're closer to polenta. at least, thats how i see it. Grits are cooked in water and/or dairy. I think your interaction with under- or un-salted grits is either a failing of the cook, or a well-intentioned cook who feels that everyone should be free to salt their grits as they see fit. Just my thoughts.

Tim

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Wow, I had forgotten about this topic until I saw it pop back up to the top due to the last comment. Thanks everyone for the comments so far.

I guess I should've been a little bit clearer in my original request. The problem I am having with grits is when I go out someplace (like a Denny's or a local breakfast mom and pop place) and order grits, not when I make them at home. I'm sure that many of you are probably correct in your assertions that what I am getting are instant grits. My basic question centered around the fact that every time I order grits from one of these types of restaurants, they come completely and wholly unseasoned. It just seemed completely at odds with the fact that the Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich that came with said grits has enough salt to kill a small horse. The dichotomy seemed odd to me and when I started asking around, friends who were in the know insisted that if you order just plain grits, that is exactly what you get, cornmeal cooked in water/milk, no salt.

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So...being a pseudo-southern boy (moved here when I was four....but, as they say down here, living here doesn't really make you a southerner.....if a cat had kittens in the oven, you wouldn't call them biscuits)...

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

I no longer live in the south, but I am a Southerner (born in Atlanta to parents born in Nashville). I don't order grits here in Seattle, but when I make them for myself I season them with freshly ground pepper and truffle salt (I use Ritrovo Selections brand - I've tried others, and they don't have nearly as much truffly goodness). OK, maybe not authentically Southern, but oh, my, is it good! :wub:

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Wow, I had forgotten about this topic until I saw it pop back up to the top due to the last comment. Thanks everyone for the comments so far.

I guess I should've been a little bit clearer in my original request. The problem I am having with grits is when I go out someplace (like a Denny's or a local breakfast mom and pop place) and order grits, not when I make them at home. I'm sure that many of you are probably correct in your assertions that what I am getting are instant grits. My basic question centered around the fact that every time I order grits from one of these types of restaurants, they come completely and wholly unseasoned. It just seemed completely at odds with the fact that the Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich that came with said grits has enough salt to kill a small horse. The dichotomy seemed odd to me and when I started asking around, friends who were in the know insisted that if you order just plain grits, that is exactly what you get, cornmeal cooked in water/milk, no salt.

I’ve lived in both the North and the South. I’ve never heard anyone order (or differentiate) “plain” grits versus “seasoned” grits in either locale.

The simple fact is, much like pasta, grits must be salted while they are cooking. In my opinion, adding salt after they are cooked is pointless and results in something more akin to grits with salt instead of seasoned grits. The flavor is entirely different. If you have to add salt to your grits after they are cooked, they are already ruined.

The grits in the South tend to be cooked properly because people actually eat them there, whereas up here in the North they are treated much more like a novelty.

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Sadly, Florida, I fear you are right. What struck me as ironic was that the three or four differernt restaurants where I've seen them on the menu and ordered them, they were all equally as bland and unseasoned.

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If you're starting your "grits" with stock...then they're not grits. They're closer to polenta. at least, thats how i see it.

You say polenta/I say grits. I always use stock in my grits simply b/c I think it adds to the flavor (along w/ hot sauce, salt, pepper, & some times cheese).

Grits are usually a coarser grind than polenta but what ever you put in to them does not change the fact that they are grits. If you cook rice in stock it is still rice so why should grits be any different?

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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If you're starting your "grits" with stock...then they're not grits. They're closer to polenta. at least, thats how i see it.

You say polenta/I say grits. I always use stock in my grits simply b/c I think it adds to the flavor (along w/ hot sauce, salt, pepper, & some times cheese).

Grits are usually a coarser grind than polenta but what ever you put in to them does not change the fact that they are grits. If you cook rice in stock it is still rice so why should grits be any different?

I agree, Lan4Dawg. I almost never use plain water to cook anything when I can use (or at least add) stock or white wine or OJ or some other flavorful liquid instead. For grits it's vegetable stock. Why not? I've never had any complaints! :biggrin:

And I never have gotten the distinction between grits and polenta. In fact, I've often served "polenta" to guests who would never in a million years touch grits. Yes, I'm devious that way. :rolleyes:

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If you're starting your "grits" with stock...then they're not grits. They're closer to polenta. at least, thats how i see it.

You say polenta/I say grits. I always use stock in my grits simply b/c I think it adds to the flavor (along w/ hot sauce, salt, pepper, & some times cheese).

Grits are usually a coarser grind than polenta but what ever you put in to them does not change the fact that they are grits. If you cook rice in stock it is still rice so why should grits be any different?

I agree, Lan4Dawg. I almost never use plain water to cook anything when I can use (or at least add) stock or white wine or OJ or some other flavorful liquid instead. For grits it's vegetable stock. Why not? I've never had any complaints! :biggrin:

And I never have gotten the distinction between grits and polenta. In fact, I've often served "polenta" to guests who would never in a million years touch grits. Yes, I'm devious that way. :rolleyes:

back when I was doing some catering I had some one ask me the difference between grits and polenta. I responded, "oh, about $1.50 per person". ":^)

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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Once I discovered stone-ground grits that could be ordered by mail I've been pretty loyal to them. I like the coarser grind as well. I tried a bulk product labeled "coarse ground polenta" (only yellow corn was available) and didn't think it was as fresh or tasty as the white grits I get from hoppinjohns.com. So whenever I'm making an Italian meal that calls for polenta, I simply use my white grits. The polenta that's sold in boxes is also not terribly fresh, and lacks flavor, but I would guess any packaged grits that have been sitting on the shelf will also taste dull. In the end it's all about the corn, so the original source, how it's ground--and how recently--makes a difference.

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