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Thread: Grits vs. Polenta vs. Corn Meal

  1. #1
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    Grits vs. Polenta vs. Corn Meal

    Ok, First I should start by saying I was born and raised in the south. That being said, I *think* I don't like grits. Admittedly, it is one of those things I tried as a child and hated so I haven't tried it since. But, I absolutely LOVE polenta, and make it once every week or two. I have heard that grits and polenta are basically the same thing, so I feel like I should probably give grits another try. But I thought I'd try to get my information straight first, and I know there are a lot of knowledgeable people here, so here I am. Is there a difference between grits and polenta, and if so, what is it?

    Also, when I make polenta I use corn meal. The same corn meal I use when I make corn bread. Many polenta recipes I have seen call for corn meal, although some call for polenta. Is there a difference? I had a friend over for dinner recently who had never eaten polenta before. When she watched me make it and learned it was just cooked corn meal she accused me (good naturedly) of trying to trick her. Is there a difference between corn meal and polenta, and if so, what is it?
    "Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and
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  2. #2
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    I was told plenta and corn meal are the same the only difference, I think is what is called polenta is ground finer

    laurie

  3. #3
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    I believe true polenta is ground differently than the cornmeal we use for baking, although stone-ground cornmeal is pretty close. Polenta is made from yellow corn, whereas we have cornmeal made from both white and yellow corn.

    Grits are made from hominy, which is white corn treated with lye. Grits are actually closer to masa harina than to cornmeal. Here's a little essay: http://www.grits.com/discript.htm

  4. #4
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    Re: Grits vs. Polenta vs. Corn Meal

    Originally posted by mariposa
    Is there a difference between grits and polenta, and if so, what is it?

    Is there a difference between corn meal and polenta, and if so, what is it?
    From foodsubs.com:

    hominy grits = grits = corn grits Notes: This Southern staple is made from hominy or plain corn that's been ground until it has the consistency of coarse sand. It's used as a side dish, a breakfast cereal, or as an ingredient in baked goods. Varieties include quick-cooking grits and instant grits. Substitutes: polenta meal (This is corn that's often stone-ground, so that it retains the nutritious germ.) OR buckwheat grits OR barley grits

    polenta meal Substitutes: yellow cornmeal (coarsely ground) OR ready-made polenta (saves time) OR hominy grits OR millet

    And while masa harina can be made from hominy, corn (white or yellow) or blue corn it is also slaked with lime which I don't believe is true of grits...my package doesn't mention any lime.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  5. #5

    Question

    Sorry I don't have answers, but yet another question. When I was a kid, we had a cannister of Quaker cornmeal that had a recipe for cornmeal mush that you made in a saucepan (probably just adding water and salt), and ate topped with butter (ok, I admit it was margarine back then!). Anyway, since growing up and looking at classier recipes, I have wondered if this was essentially polenta I was eating and enjoying so much?

    I appreciate all the posts on this thread, as these issues have confused me too!

  6. #6
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    I buy cornmeal from a mill here in town that grinds the stuff with a huge stone so it's probably a little finer ground that most of the stuff usually sold for grits. However, according to my Italian boyfriend, grits and polenta are pretty much the same thing, except in some cases polenta is a little more fine ground. It's all very similar, though, so if you like polenta, you'll like grits and vice versa. I'll ask him tomorrow for more of a specific definition, but from the premade polenta I bought recently for a casserole (the round form made it easier), I didn't see any real difference. Plus, from the polenta I've had in Italy, I didn't notice a huge difference, either.

  7. #7
    Alton Brown did a Good Eats about this and I'm 99% sure he repeatedly said polenta = grits = corn meal. Sometimes grind or color differs a little between.

  8. #8
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    Talking

    Thanks for all your responses. I guess I should give good ole grits a try!
    "Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and
    it's our job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they
    mature into something which you'd like to have to dinner."

  9. #9
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    Is polenta the same as hasty pudding? I remember reading about hasty pudding years ago in a book about pioneers (Laura Engles Wilder)? and it called for sprinkling cornmeal slowly into boiling water or some such. If so, its been around for a long time. My mom used to love fried cornmeal mush - also the same thing I think.
    Anne

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by Anne
    Is polenta the same as hasty pudding? I remember reading about hasty pudding years ago in a book about pioneers (Laura Engles Wilder)? and it called for sprinkling cornmeal slowly into boiling water or some such. If so, its been around for a long time. My mom used to love fried cornmeal mush - also the same thing I think.
    Hasty pudding adds a sweetener, usually molasses or maple syrup, and milk, among other things, to cornmeal mush. The original English version doesn't use cornmeal at all, though.

    Bob

  11. #11
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    Even though it's all cornmeal, another subtle variation is that polenta often has cheese added. Grits often has bacon grease.

    I'm w/you, though...never liked grits as a kid. As an adult I love polenta (only the firm kind, though). I haven't gone back to make & try official grits.

    If we're looking for even more variations....hush puppies are just deep fried polenta/grits. When done well, they're wonderful little sinners.

  12. #12
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    My mother always used white cornmeal for hush puppies, the same cornmeal she used to make cornbread. I think she basically just made a thick version of her cornbread batter and added chopped onion.

    And, I've NEVER had grits made with bacon grease, just butter and maybe cheese. Of course, shrimp and grits is a staple of the low countries, both east coast and Gulf coast.

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