Ok lets talk grits. I mean when you think of southern cooking you certainly talk about grits. Amongst the myriad of southern foods out there grits are probably in the top ten food items most identified as southern. I think that some of my earliest food memories center around breakfasts at home. I can still smell breakfast cooking in our home as a little boy on saturday mornings. Weekends meant one of three things in our house growing up. It meant pancakes or waffles or french toast for breakfast before church. But the regular week day breakfast morning was reserved for eggs and grits. In fact I think we ate eggs and grits and bacon or sausage for breakfast growing up more than we ever ate oatmeal or cereal. Much to the chagrin of my mother who was always trying to get us to be healthy. Well what we maybe missed out in health we made up in happiness! And as far as I am concerned happy people are healthy people a lot of the times.
Now grits are the people's food. They were the food of farmers and plantation workers alike. Free and slave, everyone on a plantation or farm started the day the same way. A big bowl of grits some fat back or bacon and some eggs and coffee or milk. These were a staple of the people in the south and as history marched forward grits became a cheap and stable element in the southern diet. This was especially true of the poor and the black communities. That's why when you go to north to Milwaukee or west to Denver you still get grits offered at BBQ joints and even diners in parts of town. Grits became part and parlance of the south. I love the expression used to describe someone who's found to be totally boring. "He is as bland as grits without salt and cheese!!" It's pretty descriptive given that if you don't salt grits at the outset of cooking them you never really get them salted.
Now grits are prepared and presented in so many ways it makes your head spin. There are whole cookbooks dedicated to the might Grit and the fillings, toppings, sauces, condiments and uses they have. But today we are talking about plain old cheese grits.
So to make really good grits, you have to start with....really good grits. Not that the old Quaker grits you find in the grocery store won't do in a pinch, but there are better. And never make instant grits they are not good! In fact if you can find stone ground grits from a small grits producer in the south somewhere, have them mailed to you. Just look online. There are plenty. So that being said the next thing is what you cook them in. You can use water. It's the go to thing, however if you want to up the ante, chicken stock, seafood stock, vegetable stock, mushroom stock, milk or cream can be used to cook the grits in. Then what you put in them is the next thing. Some folks like a grated cheese, some like just butter, others like a soft cheese or salty meat like ham or bacon. Whatever you pick make sure that it has flavor. The worst is when you are excited by the way that the grits flavoring is described and it ends up tasting like nothing. The last thing is salt. Grits need salt to be flavorful. Just be careful how much you salt them if you are putting in a very salty cheese. They should be salted though, never plain, or even a really salty cheese won't stand up to them.
So here's the basics you need to know.
For every cup of uncooked grits you will need 4 cups of liquid. a tablespoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of butter. You should boil the liquid and when you add the grits pour them in slowly and use a whisk to stir them into the liquid. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook them 20 to 30 mins on low stirring every 4 to 6 mins. You MUST stir or the grits will gravitate to the bottom of the pan and burn.
After that you can add in anything you want. I like a strong aged gouda-like cheese better than cheddar normally. I mean there are plenty of cheeses you can add just pick one you like. Stir it in till melted and there you go, cheese grits!
And that's about it. So get out there and make some grits and I promise you will be loving them! Enjoy Ya'll!