Long before the New World was ‘discovered’, corn was known to many civilizations as maize. The Zuni Indians of New Mexico called it tawa. When translated, tawa means ‘old’. The term accurately expresses how old this cereal grain is, OLD! Throughout history corn was made into cakes, porridge and even beer. The Iroquois are given credit for popcorn, maize was mixed in receptacles that held hot sand and cooked slowly until the kernels burst. Thanks to the tenacity of our ancestors we are able to craft many of the corn dishes we love today.
And even still we are finding new ways to elevate corn in the kitchen. Creating grits from popcorn is not entirely a new concept. Many chefs have recreated popcorn grits. But I thought it creatively simple enough to share.
What type of popping corn can you use?
Any popping corn will do. This recipe will use the Dakota Black and Tom Thumb to highlight the varieties included in the CSA box. If you’re interested, the seeds for both varieties are available through High Mowing Seeds. I initially thought that the purple black seeds of the Dakota Black would impart their deep hue to the grits. Not quite, the color transfers only slightly. But there are interesting bits of purple shell visible throughout the finished product.
Why take perfectly good popping corn and make grits?
The corn flavor is intensified with the corn broth, created by boiling the popped kernels in water with butter. This dish is excellent because it avoids a major pitfall, getting popcorn stuck in your teeth.
The recipe does not yield a large amount of grits compared to the amount of popcorn used. A corn sheller would make removing the kernels easier but it’s possible to remove them by hand. When popping the corn, avoid the temptation to use high heat. The burnt popcorn taste will transfer to the finished bowl of grits. Low and slow is the best way to go.
Here is a link to a recipe with easy to follow instructions.
Two book sources used for this article are:
A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Post by Shaquannah Faison