My mother made grits at least 2 or 3 times a week during my childhood. It was usually for breakfast but we had it for dinner with fried Catfish as well. My mother never made shrimp and grits and I did not have it until an adult. I did not even know shrimp and grits was a thing.
I am a child of the South. Although born in Florida, not really considered a Southern state by Southerners, I did spend a good portion of my childhood in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, plus outliers like Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Southerners do love their grits.
As an adult, I have eaten grits rarely, usually when visiting the South. I remember photographing a wedding in Atlanta where there was a Waffle House across the street from the hotel and I just had to have a pork chop, grits and eggs for breakfast.
Perhaps 5 years ago, I picked up a bag of Quaker Old Fashions Grits on a whim. It was what I ate as a child. I found it had a certain nostalgia that was comforting. From then on I would cook grits at least once a week, usually on Sunday morning. It is Sunday and there are some Farmer John breakfast sausages cooking in a pan on the stove right now.
I currently have Albers White Hominy Quick Grits. I much prefer the old fashioned grits but during Covid times it has been hard to come by. I buy what I can get.
A hopefully short explanation is required. Grits can be made from white or yellow Hominy corn. Hominy is corn that has been treated with a alkali solution usually made from slaked lime, lye, or wood ash. This process is known as Nixtamalization in Mexico which is where it is purported to have originated. It loosens the tough hull which is then removed. The kernels also swell to at least double the size. The Hominy is then dried and ground to particular size to make grits or meal for corn torillas.
Grits come in four basic varieties not including white or yellow. Stone ground grits are just what they sound like. Whole kernels are ground between two stone wheels with a course texture. Old fashioned grits have a medium texture or ‘grit’ while quick grits have a finer texture and cook quicker because of that. The last variety is Instant Grits which are precooked, usually come in a packet like instant oatmeal and should be avoided at all costs.
Making grits is not something that is fast. Stone ground takes at least 45 minutes, old fashioned supposedly cooks in 10 while quick grits only takes 6 minutes if you go by the box directions. Do not follow the box directions. You will have something for breakfast, but they can be so much better.
There are as many methods for cooking grits as mothers from the South, but I will share how I make it. Firstly, the typical ratio of water to grits is 4/1. Start with 4 parts water or other liquid to 1 part dry grits. It usually takes more liquid than that which is why I use a risotto type method. I use a separate pot to heat at least 5 parts liquid to a simmer. In my grits pan, I like to brown 2 breakfast sausages. Pork and grits are a perfect combination.
After the pork links are well browned, I remove them to a waiting bowl and pour off the excess grease. Into the pan goes 4 parts liquid, this morning I am using a rich chicken and ham hock stock but water is fine. The rest of the liquid is waiting if needed and it usually is.
Salt is needed here and a good amount. Use your taste, but grits are pretty bland on their own and cooking in salted liquid is better that salting after. Once the salt is dissolved, add your grits slowly while maintaining a constant stir. Once the grits are all in, bring back to a good boil and reduce flame to very low. A very soft bubble is what I am looking for. Now add the chopped sausages to the pot.
Although it is often recommended to stir constantly, as my own Mother always did, I find that a good stir every 5 minutes is sufficient. As in risotto, the stirring helps release the starches from the grains making a creamier porridge.
I cook my grits at least 25 minutes to get the texture I like. The key to adding more liquid is looking at the thickness. When the spoon, dragged across the bottom of the pot leaves a valley, add several tablespoons of liquid until it is more wet. Again this is all to your own taste. You could use cold or room temperature liquid, but each time it takes awhile for the pot to come up to temp. That is why the risotto method works here.
Each time you stir, make sure to scrape the bottom to loosen any stuck bits. If you choose to stir constantly, this will not likely happen.
At the 20 minute mark, I usually grate a few tablespoons of cheese directly into the waiting bowl. I used to just put it in the pot which is fine but if you do the cleanup is harder. I like to use a Colby-Jack for this although cheddar works quite well and is more traditional. The cheese melts just fine in the bowl with a good stir once the grits go in.
While I grate the cheese, I also heat my egg pan. I like an egg with my cheesy sausage grits and it should be over very easy. Usually, after the buttered pan receives the egg, I pour the grits into the cheesy bowl and stir well. When the egg is cooked to perfection, it is slid atop the cheese sausage grits and with a grind of fresh black pepper, breakfast is served.
Cheesy Grits with Sausage
Serves one with no leftovers, multiply ingredients as needed for more
- 2 pork link sausages
- ¼ cup Old Fashioned or Quick grits
- 1 and a half cups simmering liquid. Water, stock, or even half milk/half water
- Heavy pinch salt
- 1 egg
- Butter to fry egg
- 2 or 3 tablespoons grated cheese, Colby Jack or Cheddar
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Bring liquid to simmer in a small saucepan
- Use second saucepan to brown sausages
- When sausages are done, remove to bowl and pour off excess grease
- Add 1 cup of simmering liquid to sausage pan and scrape bottom
- Add salt to water
- While gently stirring, add grits to pan
- Add chunked sausage to grits
- Reduce heat to low and cook 25 minutes
- Stir frequently and add more liquid as required
- Grate cheese into the bowl
- When grits are done, pour over cheese and mix well
- Fry eggs to your liking and top grits
- Grind black pepper and eat
Testing Nutrition Label from verywell, let me know what you think. I did the math and it looks about right. I did not know the sausages contained that much sodium.
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