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! 😋
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!