Southern Grits & Sweet Magnolias

I never had grits before my first trip to visit the School of Design campus at NCSU (a very long time ago). My mother only made oatmeal and cream of wheat. We won’t comment further about either of those two foods.

All I can say is that breakfast at the old Hilton on Hillsborough Street included fluffy Southern biscuits with butter and honey along with creamy grits. I have no idea whether they were prepared correctly or not. But dare I say it was one of the determining factors in my decision to decline my slot at a Chicago University and move south. That and maybe the sweet smell of magnolia trees.

My skills have improved over the years and the only advice I will give here is that they should be cooked all the way through. I do not like a gritty texture. I like my grits smooth and it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get them that way, stirring most of the time. You don’t rush risotto and you don’t rush grits. It’s all in the process for both.

The simple information is the ratio of milk, water and grits I use. 3 parts whole milk (low-fat will work if you monitor your simmer point and don’t overheat it), 2 parts water, 1 part stone-ground organic grits I use Lindley Mills organic stone-ground grits. Lindley Mills was established in 1755 at its present location. Knowing my love of historic places, you know I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to support these folks!

Now put on your comfortable shoes and tune the radio or TV to something you will enjoy for an hour. Get your spatula ready to stir and commence with cooking!


Southern Grits 101


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter (don’t skip or change this)
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


  • To a large pan, add the milk, water, butter, salt and pepper.
  • Bring it up to a slow simmer. Don’t be tempted to walk away once you turn the stove on because milk boils over easily and you won’t enjoy the clean-up process at all.
  • As the liquid comes to a simmer, while stirring, slowly pour in 1 cup of dry stone-ground organic grits.
  • At the beginning you can stir every couple of minutes or so with a silicon spatula to keep the grits from settling and sticking to the bottom of your pot. This is where the butter is useful.
  • As the mixture continues to boil and the liquid reduces you will need to stir more often.
  • At the 30 minute mark you might be tempted to say the grits are finished because they are pretty thick. If they taste gritty (they will :-) ) when you sample them, continue cooking and stirring.
  • You may need to add some additional milk or you can choose to add some half / half at this point to sweeten them. Whatever you add, try to warm it before you add it so you don’t reduce the temperature of the grits.
  • At the 45 minute mark, you are probably ready to sample them for mouth texture. They should be thick and creamy with just a little grit texture. If they are ready, you can add anything to them you would like at this point: sautéed veggies, chopped meat, cheese. Blend and serve.


Leftovers? There shouldn’t be any, but if you need another way to use up extra, here’s a recipe for a Grit Casserole that is light and wonderful as a side dish for dinner.


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