I’ll be honest. I bought these because they’re blue. Come on people. Blue grits? Heirloom blue grits? How could l not purchase them? I first heard about Anson Mills in some culinary publication or other and, being a connoisseur of grits, I had to check it out. Their story is pretty cool actually – you can read all about it here – but the short version is that they’ve rediscovered and are now growing and preserving several heirloom grains, including several varieties of corn and rice. These blue grits are actually Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits, and they are excellent.
When I say I’m a connoisseur of grits, you must understand; I was born and raised in the Deep South to southern parents, grandparents, etc. And southerners take grits seriously. Lately grits have been having something of a rennaissance moment – thank you Hugh Acheson and the Lee Bros – and have been showing up in all manner of fine restaurants and gourmet food stores, but they’ve been a staple in my house since before I can remember. I can eat grits for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; with shrimp or salmon croquettes; made into grits cakes; or as a side dish at any given meal. I’ve been getting my grits (stone ground) from a place called the Redneck Gourmet in Newnan, Ga. You can’t purchase them from their website (deepest apologies to all of you who can’t obtain them, because they’re amazing and you’re really missing out), but if you ask they’ll sell them to you in the restaurant. The Redneck is kind of famous in my part of Georgia – they’re huge Georgia Bulldogs fans there so they really represent during football season – but they also have some extremely good food. If you’re in Newnan on a Friday, you should really stop by, because that’s Dawg day, and they have some of the best hotdogs you’ll find – I recommend the RG Dawg: chili, cheese, onions, and slaw. It’s crazy good.
But I digress. The grits. I remain a loyal customer of the Redneck, and keep their grits on hand – they’re coarsly stone ground, so they cook up really large and tender – but I wanted to try the ones from Anson Mill to see if they really were as good as I’d heard. Well, sleep soundly tonight, dear reader, because they are. I have to mail order them, and their recipes are a little fussy, in my opinion, but they do have a great deep corn flavor, and the texture is spot on. You want grits to be smooth and tender, but still with a little chew, and these are just perfect. They do take a little longer to cook, and they recommend soaking them overnight, which takes more planning than I’m sometimes prepared for, but they are totally worth it. And if you’re not from around here, and don’t eat grits very often, or, heaven forbid, have only had the instant kind, these are the ones you should try. These are what instant grits want to be when they grow up.
Now I’m giving you the recipe provided by Anson Mills – they actually have a disclaimer that says “not all recipes will work with our products, and our products won’t work with all recipes” – and this is true to some extent. It really does cut down the cooking time if you soak them the night before, or at least a couple of hours, but in my experience letting it come to a boil and then simmering doesn’t adversely affect them, and I have never gone through all the rigamarole of adding water slowly, etc. This isn’t risotto people, it’s grits, and like the people of the south, grits tend to be made of pretty sturdy stuff. Just cover with water, simmer, add S&P, chives, cheese, and a pat of butter, and enjoy.
Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits
Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (preferably a Windsor saucepan) and cover them with 2½ cups water. Stir once. Allow the grits to settle a full minute, tilt the pan, and skim off and discard the chaff and hulls with a fine tea strainer. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.
Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and keep hot. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them; each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the hot water, adding about 1½ cups water or more in 4 or 5 additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 90 minutes if they weren’t. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes. Add more salt, if desired, and the pepper.