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Apr 14, 2009 01:49 PM

Essential ingredients in Southern Cooking


I posted this in "South" and I don't think it was the appropriate forum.

Please help a Northern boy make the most of a great opportunity.

We'll be driving through Alabama this weekend, on our way home to Wisconsin.

Dear Southern Hounds: What quintessential Southern ingredients would you recommend I stock up on if I were to swing into a Winn-Dixie off the highway in Montgomery?

I cannot see myself investing in TOO many fresh ingredients, and would like to concentrate on staples, if possible.

Examples that I already know I'll be searching out:
White Lily flour
Steen syrup

In that vein, are there any other suggestions? Tell me what I should buy and I'll find the recipes from there!

Thanks so much, in advance.

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  1. Just so you know, White Lily ain't what it used to be:

    I always stock up on fatback, country ham, cracklins, good local cornmeal, and the jumbo tea bags for ice tea when I visit home (NC).

    1 Reply
    1. re: jegreen


      I had heard that White Lily is Smuckers.

      My thought on that is that it's still probably better for biscuits than what I can source in Madison, Wisconsin.

      At the very least, I'll be forced to blame the COOK and not the ingredients on the quality of my still-improving biscuits.

    2. You have to get strawberry preserves for breakfast food. But that might just be a home grown thing and not a store bought thing (not sure)...and Lawry's Season Salt is a must-have at all times!

      1. Get top-of-the-line stone ground grits. Keep them in your freezer in a tightly sealed ziplock bag and they'll keep a very long time.
        My favorite is Anson Mills. Terribly expensive but worth every penny. Like the caviar of grits. Not sure if they'll be in the Winn-Dixie but you should be able to find a good stone ground variety.

        Also some very fine cornmeal for coating all that wonderful fresh fish you catch all summer in Wisconsin. You folks really know how to fry fish so adding some good cornmeal and hushpuppies will take you to Fish Fry Heaven on Friday Nights.
        Good cornmeal is very fresh in the South because the turnover is so rapid in stores.

        Pecans. If you find a good price, stock up. They keep great in the freezer. There is no life without pecans.

        And if you drive through Birmingham, stop and eat at one of Frank Stitt's restaurants. The very best of Southern food and the equal of any restaurant in America. I've been dying to go and thinking of hitting the highway after drooling over his books and cooking from them. All I hear is raves.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          I've only eaten at Stitt's first restaurant, Highlands Bar & Grill, and would happily crawl from my home in AZ for another meal there. Two thumbs waaaay up! Monch, if you can find a way to follow MS's suggestions, by all means, do it. She's well-named.

          1. re: Sherri

            I so appreciate all the advice.

            I'm all over the pecans to go with the Steen's to make my dear wife her favorite...Pecan Pie!

            I'm already a patron of Anson Mills...their grits and polenta are second to none I've tried. Thanks for ratifying my decision to shuck out (pun definitely intended) the extra cash for their amazing product. When I rushed to get grits from them, to make Shrimp and Grits for my wife, I did not even TELL her the cost! Her reaction made it 100% definite that I'll be returning to Anson Mills for years.

            Stitt's is a great recommendation. We ARE driving through Birmingham, and I'm all over a meal at such a well-recommended restaurant.

            Keep them coming.

            I'm desperately hoping that I can source Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce ( at the Winn-Dixie. Carting it home one 3 ounce bottle at a time, on the plane, is NOT the solution!

          2. re: MakingSense

            I have gathered Anson Mills is, as you say, the caviar of grits. How does it compare to Bob's Red Mill? I love this stuff:

            1. re: kattyeyes

              They should not be mentioned in the same sentence.
              Anson Mills is the grits of choice of Thomas Keller for Per Se and the French Laundry, Charlie Trotter and most high end restaurants, who also use their polenta integrale and heirloom farro.
              Old Bob thinks that grits and polenta are the same thing. LOL

              1. re: MakingSense

                Well, Making Sense, you'll be amazed/tickled to know I thought of you at dinner tonight. I had Anson Mills Heirloom Polenta at a fabulous dinner out. I GET IT NOW. Thank you for clarifying. YOU WERE RIGHT. This is the stuff polenta dreams are made of. Proof (and a much longer explanation) here:


          3. When we make our annual trek back to Nashville and southern Kentucky, I stock up on dry-cured and/or smoked pork products: vacuum-packed slices of country ham, jowl bacon, sliced bacon, smoked bulk sausage in the muslin tubes (nowadays conveniently vacuum-packed, too, so my suitcase doesn't smell like a smokehouse!). I also get a 5-lb. bag of Martha White self-rising cornmeal, if I'm not too overloaded already, but I always get a bundle of the various Martha White cornbread mixes in the little one-batch bags. As for grits, although I do love the big-grained Anson Mills grits, for regular breakfast use and especially for making a batch of garlic/cheese grits I prefer the fine-ground boxed white quick (NOT INSTANT!!!) hominy grits, any brand.

            1. When we vacation in NC I always acquire Duke's mayonnaise and an excellent local breakfast sausage. Among other things.