Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Grits or Polenta or Mush?

Jan 26 2015

I get hungry for some fried cornmeal mush and when I fix some and post on Let’s Talk BBQ forum someone always asks what mush is. Grits are pretty widely known especially in the south; from the east coast to Texas. If you were born or lived there you know what grits are.

Grits, polenta and mush are made from boiling cornmeal in water in their simplest form. Grits can be made from yellow or white cornmeal, fine ground or coarse stone ground. Polenta; I have only seen it made with yellow cornmeal but can be fine ground or coarse stone ground.

Cornmeal mush I have only seen it made with yellow cornmeal and any grind. It is made from cooking the cornmeal and water down pretty thick then pouring in a loaf pan and let set up in the fridge. It is then sliced a thickness you like and fried in oil, butter or bacon grease. It is usually eaten for breakfast.

Cornmeal mush I think came from the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish. It is mostly known in the mid-west. I grew up having mush a lot for breakfast, usually with bacon and eggs. We always asked Mom to fry it crisp. To get it crisp you have to cut it just ¼ inch thick and takes about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. I like to fry it in bacon grease and then just add salt and pepper; some like it with maple syrup and I do have it that way at times.

I never had grits until I was in Turkey with the USAF. I was on a Turkish AFB with a small detachment of about 70 men. Our cook was from Texas and he fixed grits about every morning and usually he had ham and red eye gravy once a week. Simple red eye gravy is to just pour in some black coffee after frying ham and scraping up all the brown bits. You then have it over the ham and the grits. That is a taste treat.

Polenta is Italian and tastes the same as grits. They didn’t grow corn there until they imported it from the Americas. They use it in many different dishes and for any meal. If you search Italian polenta recipes they will call for a batch of soft polenta or a batch of hard. The hard polenta is made the same way as mush.

I think that grits are still mostly a breakfast item here but you are seeing more different recipes in the past 10 years. Shrimp and grits is a popular one and I have made shrimp and sausage over grits. Lately I have seen some different baked grits recipes too. There are recipes to cook some grits and then pour on a sheet pan and in the fridge to set up. You then slice in squares and fry like I do the mush. I like to use stone ground grits and prefer white if just a breakfast side; I like the yellow if having something over them. Sometimes I will use milk in place of water for creamier grits and like adding cheese too.

This is just my thoughts on the subject and wanted to let all know what cornmeal mush is and whether you have grits or polenta; it’s the same dang thing! 

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