Grits are historically known as a food of the Southeastern United States, but they’ve been around much longer than the USA, in one form or another. They are a traditional breakfast food made of ground dried corn kernels. In consistency, they are rather like Cream of Wheat.
The first settlers in the US were offered “rockahominie” by the friendly Indians, and this mixture of dried corn probably kept many of the settlers alive during those cold winters. Hominy grits are made from corn that has been soaked in weak lye water to make the kernels swell. The kernels are then dried and ground. Grits were also a vital part of the Southern diet during the Great Depression since they are inexpensive and require only water and perhaps some oil or butter to make.
Although some people desecrate grits by putting sugar and butter over them, as with oatmeal, a proper bowl has butter, salt and black pepper for seasoning. They are more savory than sweet. People have their individual tastes, some preferring a thinner consistency, some liking a consistency almost like polenta — good for slicing, in other words. One use for leftovers, in fact, is slicing cold grits like bread and frying the slices.
Grits are also popular away from the breakfast table in the South, and cheese grits might appear on a supper table with pork chops or ham. In the Carolinas, dishes with shrimp and cheese are popular for eating any time of day, but especially for breakfast. Casseroles featuring them are also widely favored in the Southeast.
Depending on the variety, grits take about 15-20 minutes to cook. They usually come prepackaged and all the cook really has to do is follow directions. Grits are also available at some working grist mills. When they are cooked, seasoning is the most important step. Many people feel that nothing, absolutely nothing is worse than bland grits. They need quite a bit of salt to be really good. Pepper may also be added, or diners can add it when served.
When cooked, the grits are ladled into bowls and finished with a nice pat of butter on top. The butter melts, creating a truly delicious dish.
Grits can be served in a variety of ways, with numerous add-ins, including cheese, bacon, tomatoes, gravy, shrimp, chicken, ham and other ingredients. They are a delicious, inexpensive comfort food worth sampling.