Jalapeño Grits

in #food10 months ago
Having been born, raised, and lived all my life in the southern portion of the US, the food called grits has always been a common thing. Many areas of the world have foods that are not common in other places, such as the étouffée of Creole & Cajun cuisine in Louisiana, borsch (Beet Soup) of the Slavic countries, and the vegemite enjoyed by those in Australia.

my photograph of the front of the manufacturer's packaging, see below

Many visitors to the southern US have asked: "What's a grit?" Well, there is no such thing, as the word is always a plural: grits, with an "s" on the end. It is ground cornmeal that is cooked into a thick porridge, often with the addition of salt & pepper (to taste), butter, and sometimes with other ingredients such as cheese, bacon, shrimp, and other such flavorful things.

Europeans might immediately think: "Oh! You mean what we call polenta!" But no, grits are different, though some similarities exist.

Polenta is usually made from yellow corn (maize), although it was made in ancient times from millet, spelt, and other grains in the Roman Empire, especially the areas that are now northern Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Croatia. [source]

Grits, on the other hand, are usually made from white corn (flint corn). This variety of corn is prepared into hominy for grinding by cooking in a alkali solution (such as lime water) in a process called nixtamalization, developed by the Nahuatl (Aztec) peoples long ago. [source]

Nixtamalized maize has several benefits over unprocessed grain: it is more easily ground; its nutritional value is increased; flavor and aroma are improved; and mycotoxins are reduced. [source]

The aforementioned mycotoxins are a group of fungi to which flint corn can fall prey, along with other foods such as red chilies, black pepper, ginger, et al., which can lead to illness or death in humans. The nixtamalization process removes 97–100% of these, making the food safe to eat.

Nixtamalization also helps to release the edible pericarp from the inedible hull around it. Nutritional value of the food is increased by converting the bound Niacin (vitamin B3) within the corn into a free form that can be absorbed by the human digestive tract. And, finally, nixtamalization creates a "chemical change that allows the proteins and carbohydrates in the ground hominy to physically stick together." [source] This allows the hominy to be ground into a flour (called masa flour) that will stick together to form a dough for tortillas and other foods.

Grits, however, are not ground as fine as masa flour. There are three common degrees of coarseness for grits. The coarser grinds take longer to cook into a porridge, 45–60 minutes. More finely-ground grits will cook faster, as in the "quick quits" that cook in 5 minutes or so. And then there is the "instant grits" that are even more finely-ground and are ready-to-eat within a minute after adding boiling water.

In my young adulthood, I usually bought the "quick grits," but "instant grits" is the type I've been buying the most lately. They are good when fixed with only butter, salt, and pepper. Of course, cheese grits is also a wonderful thing! It is also fun to enjoy other varieties, too, such as the "Country Bacon" and "Red Eye Gravy" flavors. But my go-to favorite lately is a "New!" variety: Jalapeño Grits! 😋

This variety of grits is really good for anyone who likes spicy food as well as Southern US food. There are real bits of jalapeño pepper all through (not slices, as appears on the box), so you can get some pepper along with each bite!

Since instant grits are ground more finely, they can be prepared right in the bowl in which they are served and eaten, which saves having to wash another pot. I always love not having to wash another item.

I fix mine by emptying the packet into a bowl and adding a little bit of butter, then pouring a little boiling water in (more or less water can be added, according to one's preference), stiring, and they're ready to eat within a couple of minutes. While they are thicking, I can add pepper, bacon bits, or whatever else I want. The little bits of jalapeño pepper add a perfect dimension of spiciness without going overboard with the heat, and the cheddar is always a welcome addition!


   1 QuakerOats.com
   2 TheSpruceEats.com: "Are Grits The Same Thing as Polenta?"
   3 Wikipedia: Grits
   4 Wikipedia: Mycotoxin
   5 Wikipedia: Nixtamalization
   6 Wikipedia: Polenta

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Not sure I could do jalapeno ones, might be a little too much. So is that nixtamalization the same as dipping apple slices in lemon juice?

Amazing info on this post! I wonder when I would get a chance to taste this meal. I don't think we can buy it anywhere local here.

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I had grits one time in Florida years ago and I didn't like it but now I think I need to find a way to appreciate grits and bring it to life all over. A challenge for me.

Grits can be prepared different ways, and the manner in which they were cooked for you might not have been the way you would like them best. Some people like them 'runny' with lots of extra water. Personally, I am more frugal with the water and often let them sit/rest a couple of minutes before serving so they can absorb almost all the water as I like them thicker.

Butter is an essential for seasoning (for non-vegans, at least) as is salt and perhaps a bit of pepper! Real butter is better than margarine, although I am sure you know a vegan equivalent that would suffice. Optional ingredients could include cheese (cheddar is best), or again, a vegan equivalent. Jalapenos are an excellent addition, too, since you like things with a bit of spice! Although I've never tried it, mushrooms might also be a good addition, especially if you sautéed them and deglazed the skillet to make a small amount of mushroom "gravy" to go with them. When I was a child, I remember my father would only occasionally squirt a little ketchup in them and stir them up for a slight variation. 😂

I've heard of people making them thick, then saving the leftovers until the next day when they would slice a bit and fry it lightly in a skillet. That proves it is a very versatile food! 😋

Your experience with grits reminds me of my singular experience with Cream of Wheat. I did not like it that one time I had it, but I am tempted to give it another try. Maybe it, too, was simply the way it was prepared and seasoned... 🤔

Yes you nailed it. Cream of wheat haha. I think it was in Florida that I had it in a breakfast dish.😄