Grits is a porridge made from corn (maize) that is ground into a coarse meal and then boiled. Hominy grits is a type of grits made from hominy, corn that has been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization with the cereal germ removed. Grits is often served with other flavorings as a breakfast dish, usually savory. The dish originated in the Southern United States but now is available nationwide, and is popular as the dinner entrée shrimp and grits, served primarily in the Southern United States. Grits should not be confused with boiled ground corn, which makes "hasty pudding" or "mush" or may be made into polenta using coarse ground corn, or with the "mush" made from more finely ground corn meal.
Grits is of American Indian origin and is similar to other thick maize-based porridges from around the world, such as polenta and mieliepap. The word "grits" is derived from the Old English word "grytt," meaning coarse meal.
Traditionally, the hominy for grits was ground on a stone mill. The ground hominy was then passed through screens, the finer sifted material used as grit meal, and the coarser as grits. State law in South Carolina requires grits and rice meal to be enriched, similar to the requirement for flour.
Three-quarters of grits sold in the U.S. are bought in the South, in an area stretching from Texas to Virginia that is sometimes called the "grits belt". The state of Georgia declared grits to be its official prepared food in 2002. Similar bills have been introduced in South Carolina, naming it the official state food. In the South Carolina low country, the uncooked ground corn is known as "grist" and the cooked dish is "hominy". This is distinct from the usual use of the term hominy.
Grits may be either yellow or white, depending on the color of the corn used. The most common version in supermarkets is "quick" grits, which have the germ and hull removed. Whole kernel grits is sometimes called "speckled".
Whole kernel grits is prepared by adding four to five parts boiling water or milk (seasoned with salt—1/4 tsp for each cup of liquid) to one part grits. Cover and cook for 20 to 45 minutes over medium low, stirring regularly. Grits expand when cooked and need stirring to prevent sticking, and lumps from forming. They are not done until they have absorbed four and one quarter times their volume. Whole grain grits require much longer to become soft than do "quick grits." Some people serve grits with sugar, while others object to sweetened grits. They are often served with butter. On occasion they are served with grated cheese, sausage, bacon, or salt and pepper, or red-eye gravy. Extra, i.e., left-over, grits can be put into a glass tumbler, chilled until needed, sliced, and fried either plain or with a breading. In this form they are denominated "fried grits," "fried hominy," or "grit cakes."
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Shrimp and grits is a traditional dish in the Low Country of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. A variation of the dish is also consumed for breakfast in the northern states of Kedah and Perlis in peninsular Malaysia. It is a traditional breakfast dish.
"Charleston-style grits" is boiled in milk instead of water, giving them a creamy consistency.
Grits play an important part in the plot of 1992 comedy film, My Cousin Vinny.
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