Weisenberger Mill's Real Grits
Way before I started liking grits on their own (no cheese? no garlic??), one of our sons, then in high school, reported he liked the grits at a local all-night pancake restaurant. Having grown up in a place with much less southern flavor than Lexington has -- though my home place is farther south geographically -- I did not join in Grit Appreciation until I ate a taste-changing shrimp and grits appetizer at Magnolia's in Charleston, South Carolina several years later. I learned from that one four-ounce serving that grits can be chewy, corn-flavored, and creamy, instead of tasteless, bland, and gluey. I came back to Kentucky and read about slow cooking stone ground grits until they became creamy. I ordered stone ground white corn grits from Alabama and South Carolina and cooked and stirred to no avail. The exotic stone ground grits turned out tasteless and just as unappealing as ever.
Enter wonderful Holly Hill Inn, playing its valued role of pointing out the food wonders right under our noses (or tastebuds). In this case Holly Hill's visionary chef Ouita Michel got my attention by featuring stone ground grits almost from next door. Weisenberger Mill, on the South Elkhorn in Scott County, minutes from the heart of Lexington (and from Holly Hill Inn), launched in its present location 143 years ago and continues as a family operation. Members of the sixth generation of Weisenbergers now produce grits and many other grain products at the mill
Weisenberger sells white stone ground grits online (and yellow, in two pound and 25 pound bags) and at stores in central Kentucky, including Good Foods Market, if you still need some last minute ingredients for your Christmas dinner.
If you want to make your stone ground grits plain but chewy/creamy-textured, try the slow cooker method, an idea that is new to me, though apparently not all that new to True Gritters. Gourmet Magazine offered this stovetop recipe for creamy grits earlier this year.
If you want flavors beyond subtle corniness in your grits, here's an excellent recipe for a classic cheese grits casserole using yellow corn grits. Or dial the heat and the flavor profile even higher with mild green chilis and a small jalapeño.
Grits aren't just for southerners anymore. Chicago has had a grits infusion, and I'm not referring to politics here.
In 2004, hungry displaced southerners used Chowhound as a way to exchange information about places to get good grits in Manhattan, which led to a 2006 piece on the increasingly famous Kenny Shopsin that touts his garlic cheese grits. (I agree with the authors: Calvin Trillin's piece on Shopsin, from The New Yorker in April, 2002, is one of my favorite pieces of food journalism. No one makes food writing seem as fun as Calvin Trillin.) Kenny Shopsin's aversion to publicity apparently is lifting. In September, 2008, Knopf published Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin, with an introduction by Calvin Trillin. Maybe you still have a Hanukkah wish list going? Or perhaps a gift card to a local or online bookstore will be in your Christmas stocking.