Butter Together: The ancient art of grit-making

 

Amelia Plair

Amelia Plair

 

 

Amelia Plair

 

 

When I was a child, my mom used to serve breakfast for dinner -- brinner -- every Christmas Eve. She did this out of necessity. Getting four children out of the house in time for Christmas Eve church services was a feat in and of itself, never mind adding the stress of cooking a full meal afterward.

 

So her solution for feeding hungry bellies so we could have visions of sugar plums dance through our heads was a big pan of scrambled eggs and an oven full of hot biscuits.

 

As the years progressed and we became old enough to take on some of the planning and cooking responsibilities, these breakfasts became more and more elaborate. One of our favorite dishes as teens and young adults was the annual vat of garlic cheese grits.

 

 

Remember those? It was a favorite dish in the South in the '90s. Almost all recipes called for a tube of garlic Velveeta, sold in the dairy case. Unfortunately, garlic cheese became more and more scarce and finally disappeared entirely several years ago.

 

So we went without our beloved garlic cheese grits for a few years until we figured out a reasonable solution to the problem: equal parts of cheddar (for flavor) and Velveeta (for texture) with garlic powder added gave us a pretty good replica of our perennial favorite.

 

But those toppings are nothing without a good bowl of grits underneath them. I'm not talking about the instant type, which bear resemblance to the real thing in name only. Nor am I a fan of the three-minute type, which are an improvement from instant, but only just.

 

No, I mean old fashioned grits, preferably stone ground, which you can still find on the bottom shelves of most Southern grocery stores. These grits have body and flavor all alone, even without the garlic cheese mixed in. They also reheat beautifully, so you can make a large pot of them and then store the leftovers in the refrigerator to eat on all week.

 

Unfortunately, the old-fashioned type of grits I prefer also typically require a bit of babysitting to cook properly. When you cook them on the stovetop, you have to stir fairly frequently to keep the grits from sticking together into a big clump.

 

Enter the electric pressure cooker. Mine is an Instant Pot, but all of them work fairly similarly. I found a recipe for amounts and cooking times on the This Old Gal blog and used them to make the type of grits I prefer: salted, creamy, and low-maintenance. The original recipe calls for adding cheese before cooking, but I absolutely do not recommend this method. I've tried it several times, and it resulted in a large clump that was difficult to smooth out.

 

I hope you'll try these, too. Cooking real Southern grits is almost an art form, and doing them this way makes the art easy.

 

Amelia Plair is a mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at [email protected]

 

 

PRESSURE COOKER SOUTHERN GRITS

 

 

1 cup old-fashioned grits (stone ground if possible)

 

3 cups water

 

4 Tablespoons butter

 

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

 

1 1/2 cups milk or cream or mix (I used about 1 ¼ cups milk plus ¼ cup cream)

 

 

  • Whisk together all ingredients well in inner pot of pressure cooker. Place inner pot into pressure cooker. Lock on lid and turn knob to sealing. Set pressure cooker for 15 minutes at high pressure. Once time is done, allow for a 10 minute natural release. Release the remaining pressure. Whisk grits thoroughly again. Allow to sit, uncovered, for a few minutes to cool and thicken slightly. Enjoy plain or with cheese and garlic powder.

     

     

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