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grits revisited

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  • applehome Sep 26, 2005 03:09 PM
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So the old joke goes - A Yankee finds himself in the deep south and having heard that the locals eat something called grits, asks the waitress for some. She says, "Hominy sir?". To which he replies, "Oh, I guess four or five."

After reading the recent posts on grits, I did some searching and found something interesting.

While there is a common understanding of what whole Hominy is - corn kernels that are treated with lye or lime that have had their hulls dissolved and have expanded to 3 times their normal size, the same thing as Posole - there is not a similar understanding that hominy grits is grits from hominy, while corn grits are grits from plain, untreated corn.

Many places in the south sell and refer to plain corn grits as hominy grits. The term hominy as applied to grits seems to be used to differentiate corn vs. rice or oats or other coarsely ground kernels.

In fact, in my searching, I have yet to find a site that sells actual hominy grits (that are clearly described as grits ground from hominy).

My understanding is that massa harina is finely ground hominy, and obviously, corn meal is finely ground plain corn. But Hominy grits are probably most often plain corn, just ground much coarser than meal.

Here's a quote from the Anson Mills site, below:

"Charlestonians have always called grits "HOMINY" - a shortened version of the old Carolina term for whole corn "HOMINY GRIST." In Charleston terms this definitely does not mean corn soaked in lye (who would want to do this unless they were really hungry), but it does mean fresh ground whole corn grist. Antebellum Hominy Grist was produced everywhere in Carolina and Georgia (there were an average of 40 mills per county here before 1860) by fresh milling corn then winnowing out only the hull to preserve whole corn nutrients, flavor & texture. So "Antebellum Charleston Style Whole Corn Hominy Grist" is the most flavorful and authentic style of "Grits" there is. Every year, at the International Grits Festival in St. George, SC, thousands of grits fans line up to get fresh milled hominy grist right out of the mill, but even at the St. George festival, they call this mill product "grits."

Oh well... smoked salmon vs. lox all over again...

Link: http://www.ansonmills.com/

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  1. All the grits I have eaten taste distinctly of hominy and the packages list the ingredients as corn because hominy is corn. Hominy has a very distinctive flavor.

    There used to be another product from dried hominy that I have not seen in a long time and that was samp. It was much bigger grains from the broken dried hominy. It had a nice texture

    14 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Can you or SonyBob (or anyone else) point me to a web/mail order source for real hominy grits? All I can find are corn grits - Falls Mill in TN, Bob's Red Mill, and this other one I previously pointed to, all have corn grits - or if they call it hominy grits, it's still from corn. I'd love to try some real hominy grits so I can tell the difference.

      TIA

      1. re: applehome

        OK, Here's the deal:
        I think you're getting confused in thinking that hominy is something other than corn. It IS corn but it's been processed by soaking in a lye solution. "Corn" grits are made from plain, untreated, coarsly ground corn. "Hominy" grits are made from hominy (corn that has been further processed), dried and then ground into grits. You can also buy just hominy in cans. I like it; many people don't. Think like : a Corvette (hominy grits) is a chevrolet (corn) and a Monte Carlo (corn grits) is also a chevrolet (corn) but although they're both chevies, they're very different. That said, if you want hominy grits, just go to the super market and get Quaker Old Fashion Grits made from enriched white hominy. It will list the ingredient as "hominy grits made from corn." That's what your looking for. The term "grit" refers more to the size of the grind than the ingredient. Here endeth the lesson.
        Bob

        1. re: Sony Bob

          I get mine from Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. My local stores only carry the nasty instant crap. Though not labled as such, they are definitely hominy grits.

          1. re: Sony Bob

            Well - I'm just a dumb yankee here... but here's what's on the Quaker Grits site (also see URL below).

            "1) What are grits?
            Grits are made from the milling of corn kernels. The first step in the process is to clean the kernels; then, the grains are steamed for a short time to loosen the tough outer hull. The grain kernel is split, which removes the hull and germ, leaving the broken endosperm. Heavy steel rollers break up the endosperm into granules, which are separated by a screening process. The large-size granules are the grits; the smaller ones become cornmeal and corn flour."

            It is clear that Quaker Grits are made from corn, not Hominy. It's really , really clear, the more research I do, that the modern term Hominy, referring to the lime/lye processed corn, also called Posole in Southwestern and Mexican cooking, is NOT what's use to make southern grits at all. The term Hominy Grits or just plain Hominy is the term used in the south for untreated corn grist. When you buy Hominy Grits, you are getting corn grits.

            The term Hominy comes from the Indian word for corn, and I would assume that it got into our lexicon hundreds of years ago to mean corn and corn based foods of all sorts. It should not be surprising that it has a couple of different meanings today.

            1)Hominy and Hominy Grits means plain corn grits.

            2)Hominy has come to mean the same as Posole.

            Candy, I'm sorry that I can't find a site for this Callaway Gardens - I do see some info on a resort there, and some basket-making stuff, but nothing about food, and grits in particular. I have been to a number of other southern mill sites that sell Hominy grits and grits - my personal favorite is Mills Falls in Tennessee - we eat their grits a lot. They are all milling the grits from corn, not Hominy. I would do some research with the Callaway Gradens folks - I would bet that they are milling corn, not Hominy.

            Link: http://www.quakergrits.com/QG_Grits/g...

            1. re: applehome

              I think you just don't get it.

              1. re: Candy

                ditto - let's leave it at that and all the evidence on the sites

                1. re: applehome

                  If grits was just ground corn it would taste like cornmeal mush. Grits tastes like hominy.

                  1. re: Candy

                    I've read the entire section on corn in McGee's book and it's extremely interesting. I'm not going to go over all of it here - but the key to understanding true Hominy is a wet process called nixtamalization, the alkaline soaking of corn - the word and the process was invented by the Aztecs. The point is that the grits now eaten as corn grits or hominy grits by most southerners has been through a dry process, and has not been soaked in any kind of alkaline.

                    Corn grits is the same stuff as corn meal and corn flour. Cornmeal is finer than grits, with particles down to 0.2mm across, and corn flour is finer than that.

                    It isn't mush because it started out bigger. If you want Hominy flavor, eat masa, or something made from masa, like corn tortillas or a tamale.

                    Prove me wrong. Please. Go talk to the people at that Pine Mountain mill, and when they say that they grind alkaline treated Hominy, not plain corn, please send me a bag (along with an old sock or a dead crow to stuff down my gullet). I honestly would like to try some.

                    Yeah - I'm a Yankee. But I've been eating grits for over 35 years - I've been married to a Southern gal for over 31 of them. I've found a number of mills that provide an excellent product. The one I mentioned, Falls Mill, you actually have to soak the stone-milled grits for a bit up front to let the remaining husks float to the top to be drained. But they are so good. I like them boiled in water with butter and salt. I've tried them with milk, but, boy, talk about mushy. I'm telling you - I've been eating corn grits, made from dried, unprocessed corn, not from alkaline-treated Hominy.

                    1. re: applehome

                      I give up

                      1. re: Sony Bob

                        Me too. There are none so blind etc......

                        1. re: Candy

                          Can Alton Brown be trusted to end the madness? What do I know, I don't even have cable.

                          Link: http://www.altonbrown.com/pages/rants...

                          1. re: petradish

                            All right all right! So has anyone found me a source of hominy grits? And don't say Quaker, cause that ain't it - their own site says so!

                            I'm re-adding that URL from the Anson Mills... also I'm dropping AB a note to clarify what Harold McGee says, since AB quotes him an awful lot.

                            Link: http://www.ansonmills.com/

                            1. re: applehome

                              Please, forget the site and go to the store and read the list of ingredients on the Quaker box. What's printed on the box is the final word as far as the FDA is concerned. The site says that it's made from corn, which it is. It happens to be hominy which is made from corn. Believe me, I have a box right in front of me and when I went to the store yesterday, I checked Quakers and others; they all said the same thing " enriched white hominy made from corn".
                              Bob

                              1. re: Sony Bob

                                I don't want to keep this going... but here's the point. Quaker sucks. I ate Quaker from the time I started with grits (I had a college roomie from Huntington WV that got me started in 1970). If that's supposed to be good hominy grits, then fogedaboudit... it's crap. In the military, they had hot white stuff on the chow line - everybody would ask - is that cream of wheat or grits - the guy serving usually didn't know or care - if you buttered it and salted it, it was grits - if you put milk and sugar in it, it was COW. Quaker is the same stuff to me... tasteless, hot white stuff.

                                I started eating stone ground, artisan milled grits many years ago and have tried several places from the south. This, to me, was real grits. This was what I thought Southerners have been raving about. It is really grainy, full of corn flavor. It takes almost an hour to cook, but it is so worth it.

                                Guess what - it's corn grits. The mills say nothing about lye or wet-process, even if they call it Hominy. I can't find a single artisan grits milling site anywhere that says it treats the corn with lye or ashes or anything. They buy the corn dry from the farmer, and they mill it. They blow out the husks - and voila - there you have it - grits - never having touched lye or any alkali.

                                Now - there is absolutely no doubt that there was a time in the south that people would boil the corn, add the ashes from the fire to treat with alkali in order to help soften and remove the husks.

                                It's just NOT happening NOW. It appears that in the area of Anson Mills (Charleston, SC) and environs (including much of Georgia, according to their web site), it never happened - they say that their antebellum (pre-civil-war) type grits wins all kinds of Grits competitions, and that dry-milling is always the way it was made down there... and by the way, they always called it hominy, although it has nothing to do with the alkali-treated hominy of today.

                                The technology to separate the husk from the endosperm using a dry process, after the milling, has been around since the beginning of the last century - the question would be, why would anyone bother with a prolonged wet process if they no longer needed it to create husk-free grits or meal?

                                At this point, I don't care what Alton Brown or anybody else says - I believe that the majority of Grits milled in the south is plain - it has not been lye-soaked. And clearly, saying Hominy does not make it lye-soaked. All I ask is to be proven wrong. Find me a source of real alkali-based processed Hominy grits, and I will buy some and try some. Certainly, I believe it exists. In small quantities, somewhere.

                                But I believe that the great majority of grits in the south is not alkali processed - whether it says Hominy or not.

      2. Great joke but I repeat myself: Candy's right. I have both kinds of grits here at home, both regular corn grits and hominy grits. The old reliable Quaker Old Fashioned Grits box lists " enriched white hominy" and "white hominy grits made from corn" as its ingredients. Try 'em side by side and you can taste the differance. Hominy grits are head and shoulders better than regular corn grits (IMO) although some southern cooks swear by regular corn grits. 99% of he time you order grits down south, you'll get hominy grits.
        Hey Hazelhurst or Hungry Celeste, you guys should be able to put the lid on this pot. I will bow to a greater power but for now, I stand with Candy. (although the whole subject isn't worth arguing over)
        Bob

        1. As most of you know, I am a 99 Cent Only store junky. A few weeks ago I saw a 24 oz. canister if Quick Cook Grits. I have always heard that Grits and Polenta are the same idea but Polenta is Yellow Corn and Grits are White Corn. I decided to put this to the test. I made the grits exactly as I would make polenta. Added some salt, pepper and Ricotta Salata. It came out amazingly good. Firmed up like polenta. Cut with a string like polenta. Fried up the disks just like polenta. Sauced them with a mix of tomato paste, chicken stock and pesto. Served them at a dinner party for 6 and got clean plates and lots of compliments. Then I told them it was grits. Everyone had eaten Polenta before and they were all amazed that this was not Polenta. Food can be fun. At Gelson's market, that amount of Polenta is about $8.00.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Just Larry

            Sounds really good, really, but what you've made aint grits like most people have for breakfast, etc. Just a plain bowl of steaming grits with butter and pepper or cream. Nothing else. Yum.
            Bob

          2. To quote Lily Tomlin in her skit "Dracula's Daughter"......"Stop talking about that cake!"