Sweet grits is an idea you occasionally, but rarely, see in old community cookbooks. The kind that are handwritten and mimeographed, and use measures like “a coffee cupful” and “butter the size of a hen egg.” Sweet grits are more of concept a people talk about. You see, grits are one of those dishes that engender recipe-swapping and reminiscing. When a big bowl of grits is on the table, people start to remember “My granddaddy always ate his grits with butter and sorghum, “no, now, my granddaddy ate his with salt.” Or “my mama always served cheese grits with pork chops.” Everyone has a memory and an opinion.
That’s where I first heard of sweet grits, as a dish somebody remembered their grandmother talking about, but had never actually had. But, like so many things, the idea stuck with me. I mulled it over for years before ever getting around to attempting it. I asked around, a few people had ideas, mostly making regular grits and sprinkling sugar on top. But I adapted my classic grits recipe with added sugar and a hit of vanilla. These are excellent with any fruit on top, but I just love summer peaches. Earthy sorghum and sweet peaches marry perfectly, and the creamy grits are an amazing backdrop.
Sweet Grits with Sorghum Peaches
Stone ground white grits work best for this, you’ll find them at natural food stores or online. If you have to, use old-fashioned (not instant or quick) grits as an alternative, but adjust the cooking time according to the package instructions.
For the Peaches
4 – 5 medium sized peaches
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sorghum
For the Grits:
4 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon butter
½ vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1 cup stone ground white grits
½ cup sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
For the Peaches:
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the brown sugar and sorghum over low heat.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Cut a small cross on the bottom of each peach, and plunge them into the boiling water for about 2 minutes, until the edges of the cross start to pull back. Remove the peaches from the pot and run them under cold water. When cool enough to handle, pull the skin from the peaches.
Pit the peaches and cut them into small chunks and immediately add them to the butter and sorghum mixture, with any juices that the peaches produce. Stir to coat the peaches, raise the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup is reduced a little and the peaches are soft. Take the peaches off the heat and set aside.
The peaches can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. Add a splash of water and reheat carefully over low, stirring constantly.
For the Grits:
Put the milk and butter in large, deep pot. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them and the bean to the milk. Bring the milk to a boil over medium high heat, being very careful it does not scorch. When it is boiling, add the grits and sugar all at once and stir. Lower the heat to medium and cook the grits, stirring frequently, until they are thick and creamy. Toward the end of cooking, as they thicken, you will want to stir almost constantly to keep them from scorching on the bottom of the pot. Be careful though, grits spit. You want the grits to be soft and creamy, with a little texture. If they are too grainy, add a bit more milk and cook until done.
Before serving, stir in the heavy cream and heat through. Serve the grits immediately, topped with the sorghum peaches and the cooking syrup.