Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods, as the Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584 … Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh's men … made a special note of corn, which he found "very white, faire, and well tasted."
He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.
When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it "rockahomine," which was later shortened to "hominy" by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn as corn was a year-round staple. Each tribe called it by a different name.
To a Southerner, eating grits is practically a religion, and breakfast without grits is unthinkable. A true grit lover would not consider instant or quick-cooking grits; only long-cooking stone-ground grits are worth eating.
In the Lowcountry of South Carolina and particularly Charleston, shrimp and grits has been considered a basic breakfast for coastal fishermen and families for decades during the shrimp season (May through December). Simply called “breakfast shrimp," the dish consisted of a pot of grits with shrimp cooked in a little bacon grease or butter. During the past decade, this dish has been dressed up and taken out on the town to the fanciest restaurants. Not just for breakfast anymore, it is also served for brunch, lunch and dinner.
In 1976, South Carolina declared grits the official state food:
Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.'
History of grits information courtesy of Linda Stradley and her What’s Cooking America website at: whatscookingamerica.net
Rhett House Inn's Southern Grits
The recipe below for a good morning dose of Southern Grits was submitted by Stephanie Fairbanks of the Rhett House Inn
, the Beaufort, SC Antebellum bed and breakfast. According to Stephanie, “this recipe is most requested by our guests.”
- 1 cup coarse stone ground grits
- 4 cups water
- 1-4 tablespoon Chicken Base paste
- 1-4 tablespoon butter
Combine all ingredients. Cook over low heat for about two hours, stirring occasionally. Cover and put in refrigerator overnight. The next morning resume cooking adding milk or half & half as needed. Cook over low heat for about an hour.
Harbor House Bed & Breakfast's Shrimp & Grits
This hearty grits recipe is just one of the tasty dishes served at the Harbor House Bed & Breakfast
, "The only waterfront bed & breakfast in the Historic district of Georgetown, South Carolina."
- ½ cup yellow grits
- ¼ cup white grits
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups half & half
- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1/3 cup chopped red pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup self-rising flour
- 1 can beef broth or chicken broth
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Cajun seasoning
- Italian seasoning
To cook grits, bring water and salt to a boil. Add grits and stir, reducing heat to simmer. Add half & half. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. If grits become too thick, add more half & half.
Chop peppers and onion and set aside. Slice Italian sausage and cook in a large frying pan. Add garlic, peppers and onion to drippings in frying pan. Add shrimp and cook until pink.
Sprinkle flour on vegetables and shrimp and stir. Add beef or chicken broth and stir until thickened. Water may be added if mixture becomes too thick. Add Worcestershire sauce and season with Cajun and Italian seasonings.