Greg: Umm, you know grits are usually the backbone to a lot of things.
Howard: Often overlooked as a simple breakfast "side."
Greg: Some lovely lovely little bit of butter in those grits make it look nice and lush.
Grits are more often a critical element a many well-known southern favorites.
I'm Dr. Howard Conyers with the gritty details on grits.
Whether it's a South Carolina - Low Country staple, like: shrimp and grits Fresh shrimp sauteed in butter with onions tomatoes and maybe a little wine.
Or in Louisiana, Grits and Grillades: which is usually veal or Pork medallions and onions smothered in gravy.
And then there's Cush Cush.
A traditional Louisiana breakfast dish beloved and hated depending on who you ask.
It's basically finer ground grits or cornmeal mix with hot milk cooked in bacon grease as sweetened with cane syrup or fig preserves.
Let's get to the granular details with South Carolina miller & farmer, Greg Johnston.
How you doing, Greg?
How are you?
I'm glad you can come out.
We'll go through the corn process to show the grits and the cornmeal and the brand and all the Waste and how everything separates out.
When you're making grits, I don't need really large stones because I'm not trying to I'm not trying to cut it down I'm trying to move it through and make it You know, uniformed.
This stone in general means a lot me.
I don't know when it was dated, It's a pretty old stone but When I was taught to chip stones and when I was taught to mill.
The miller that taught me, this is what he taught me: On every mill has two stones So a bed stone will hold constant and your runner is turning right against and the the corn or other grain is coming in through the center and Then it's going out of the stone.
As the grain comes across the surfaces - Surfaces, is what's actually cutting it.
Howard: Ridges and pearls chiseled into stones crack the curls stir channels for Mill grits Or flowers, to escape and to dissipate damaging heat produced by the friction of grinding - Protecting the grains nutritional value.
Greg: You did all that work farming or someone else did all that work bringing that grain - How do I bring it to the table or to the chef in the most - Just 100% natural way possible?
We're not inventing anything new We're just using old principles to keep things going.
Corn is made up of basic three layers: the brand we want gone We don't want it at all and then we're down to the endosperm of the germ the germs soft at the center There's only so much I can make it's almost gonna make cornmeal.
Howard: The grits most people eat today are using quick grips Which are very different from grits eaten 100 years ago.
For one thing like most corn based product older varieties are more nutritious higher in protein Nutrients and less sugars to date a lot of people are bringing back old varieties of corn.
Dr. Brian Ward specializes in organic farming practices Working with heritage seed variety Brian: Umm.. what is this?
So, yeah, that's sea island guinea.
Brian: This is Jimmy read right here.
Things they're talking about is that by the year 2050 we're gonna have to produce twice as much food on half the land with half the resources, you know, potentially half the water and so I mean trying to do this with sustainable old lines, you know heirloom lines and race lines for breeding taking genes by cross pollinating and creating new lines Okay that are that can produce a lot of food, but yet have the genes that are required to do that drought tolerance Insects resistance, things like that vital work.
It has to be done.
Howard: Since it takes a lot of hard work - Is it better to go try to find some old farmer?
Somebody has it in their crib somewhere versus trying to back breed it.
Brian: Oh Yeah, it's a lot easier doing that when a line is near extinction Okay And it gets contaminated like it gets cross pollinated on accident somehow Then you do a thing called back breeding once you know the genetics of the original and you know The genetic of what it is now Then you back cross and then isolate The lines and try to maintain that original line that takes years to be by the heirloom Varieties takes to take the work and even Facebook friends.
David: Well, one of the things I do I have a Sort of famous Facebook page.
Howard: It's pretty famous.
Dr. David Shields is one of many people hunting for old seeds.
David: This is Jimmy Redcorn the Seed for this plant right here and I want you to have it.
Howard: Oh, thank you.
David:I put a list of the most wanted lost Vegetables and grain up.
And I put Cocke's prolific up Could this be the same corn?
And she said this is it!
Greg: So Cocke's prolific that is just come to light that one alone kind of started was known in Virginia and it was lost.
There was gentlemen the Upstate of South Carolina That's 95 years old.
His name's Manning Farmer and in 1945 he began to grow up but his dad and his dad's brothers starting about 1930 and they bought it out of a seed catalog So he's growing in all these years and we were able to get a handful of seed that we can begin to start Getting it here and seeing how it does in our soils.
Howard: What is your definition of landrace?
David: A Landrace is a variety that has been selected by farmers who based their selection on taste as well as Productivity, so it's a farmer improved variety.
Now what's interesting about land races is that some of them are extraordinary ancient They've come down to us as gifts the entire wisdom that certain cultures had about flavor are Embodied in the plants.
They're not in Ag books, but the plants themselves are a cultures sense of nutrition.
Greg: Every variety Has a story every variety has a difference and Jimmy red is one that we're really focusing on and have focused on Guinea Flint is probably the most interesting Southern corn and the one that's planted here.
Guinea Flint started from what I understand down in Cuba It went to the south from the south and went to Africa from Africa back to us.
So these dramatically travel!
David: Here in this coastal zone of South Carolina and also down in the Gulf Coast Louisiana, around Mobile Gulf Coast of Mississippi There was a bug.
A corn weevil, so they had to plant a denser corn so that's why along these coasts you find a belt of sea island White Flint corn or the guinea Flint corn that That Greg grows here on Bubbly plantations.
Howard: These guys aren't just gonna load the corn They are returning to old methods for milling it.
Greg: What's so important is this is where - kind of milling starts in the US.
The mill itself is called Cleanest South.
It's called a post mill because it's got four wood post but it's an under Runner and an under Runner means exactly that is that The stone on the bottoms turning the separator.
The grit separator is the oldest known grit separator anywhere Howard: Hearty horse ground grits call south grits used to be common.
Greg: I've had chefs approach me and say can you make Samp grits?
Samp is - it's a term for large cut and I've tried over the years to recreate With other practices to try to make it well we restored this piece equipment took about two and a half years and when we Looked at all the catches, catches meaning: where cornmeal and grits fall out There was one extra catch and I was like, I don't know what that is But we'll continue restore and when we ran the first group of corn through it it made Samp grits.
Howard: Seriously - what's old is new again!
David: Countryside of the south is filled with a lot of Old Believers.
We kept on.
Howard: I'm one.
I'm an old believer.
David: He kept their family corn.
We kept their Vegetables and kept even their turnips a humble vegetable - around because They were absolutely perfect for the uses that were intended.
Greg: You get to hold hands with a generation before and maybe even farther back than that you get to taste the reason why a group of people or a Congregation or a family prized - You know, look at look at Manning Farmer!
A 95 year old man!
He's been keeping a variety of corn going since basically He was a child.
I mean that's is it you don't do that for just for the fun of it?
I mean there's a reason why he's doing that.
Howard: So, how do you eat your grits?
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