When we lived in Louisville, I longed for some good down home grits filled with butter and sweetened just a little. I searched in restaurants and grocery stores. There were things called grits, but weren’t the grits I was looking for. Like real Appalachian soupbeans and cornbread and chicken-n-dumplings, good hominy grits didn’t exist out there and it was rare to meet someone who knew what the heck you were talking about if you asked. Now, that I am back home I can buy real hominy grits for 80 cents a pound at the Yoder’s Mennonite Bulk Foods Store. This morning we had a cheesy version of grits with salt and a touch of garlic and I relished how easy they were to make and how only a little bit makes a whole lot of this Appalachian traditional food.
White folks were introduced to corn by the Native Americans, which for most of us is common knowledge. For those native peoples depending at least somewhat on agriculture, corn was a base crop and the preparations for it were as varied as the people preparing it. Turning corn into hominy makes it an easily digested food and very nutritious.
It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.
My Cherokee ancestors utilized hominy in many ways, even fermenting some for soups and the like. In my recent trip, I noticed every Cherokee dwelling was equipped with a kanona (corn beater) from the richest to the poorest. I’m looking into the more traditional variations of recipes using hominy and grits, and now that I know why it is a traditional Appalachian staple, I plan to use it to the fullest extent because it is a very cost efficient food. (For many Appalachians, especially those forced to live on very little for one reason or another, corn was a key ingredient to all three meals of the day. There are even tales of families eating nothing but things made from corn.)
* Note that when choosing corn products take great care to choose varieties that are non-GMO.
Traditional Appalachian Grits (As I am Familiar)
3 cups water
3/4 cups grits
butter (best you can find)
molasses, sorghum, or honey
pinch of sea salt
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add grits, stir and simmer for 5 minutes adding salt, butter, and sweetner as desired. Makes 4-8 servings depending on whether it is a main dish or side dish.