The kernels are removed, and soaked in lye water which causes the skin (hull) of the kernels to separate and float off. The corn is then rinsed really well to remove the lye water from it, and to wash away the hulls. Soaking in lye has nutritional benefits (see nutrition below); it also makes the corn sterile, and good for long-term storage.
Pearl Hominy (Mexican Posole)
After the lye treatment, some Hominy is then sold whole, unground; this is called in some parts “big” or “whole” Hominy . Northerners often think that this is the same thing as Posole Corn, which it is very close to, though flint corn as opposed to dent corn is usually preferred for Posole Corn.
The lye-treated, hulled kernels, which will have swollen to about twice their size, are dried and forced through heavy steel rollers which break the kernels down into fine granules — or grits — the consistency of fine sand. Grits are a religion in the American South.
Hominy Grits can be used as a breakfast cereal, as a side dish with any meal, or for baking. In the Southern US, grits are often served as mashed potatoes would be served elsewhere. Quick-cooking (5 minutes) and instant (add boiling water and stir) grits are also available in stores.
To cook grits, boil 4 cups (32 oz / 900 ml) of salted water, stir in 1 cup (6 oz / 170g) of grits slowly, reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring. When done, the grits should be no longer crunchy, but still tender to the bite. If you don’t want to have to keep on stirring them (so that they don’t stick to the pot), cook over a double boiler and you won’t have to stir them as much. If you are in a hurry and are going to stand right by the stove stirring them, you can crank up the heat on the water and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes.
For grits, polenta or corn grits. For whole hominy, Posole Corn.
The lye soaking process increases the availability of the lysine and tryptophan in the corn, making the fuller protein in the corn available for digestion. This would help prevent Pellagra, a niacin and tryptophan deficiency, that occurred in areas where corn was introduced and used as a staple protein food without using the native North or South American processing habits.
1 pound uncooked = 450g = 2 1/2 cups uncooked
1 cup = 6 oz = 170 grams = 4 1/2 cups cooked
Corn was new to American colonists, and they had to learn from Native Americans how to cook and prepare it. They learned how to make Hominy Grits from the Indians.
Literature & Lore
Now give me some of the hominy grits boy
Or shut my mouth with a great big slab of that sugar-cured ham
And about a half a gallon of this old thickened gravy
And brother you’re gonna have yourself a mighty happy man
Well it seems like when you eat stuff like that
You can see the magnolias on them honeysuckles
Well you knows that they’re in bloom
Oh set me down to that table, boy, scoot over
And give me lots of elbow room. — Dean Martin
The word “Hominy” is actually an Algonquin Indian word. Grits comes from the Old English “grytt” for “bran” or “greot” meaning something ground.
In the American South, “Hominy” generally is used to also mean “Hominy Grits”. In New Orleans, to alleviate the confusion a bit, they call unground Hominy “Big Hominy” and the grits “Little Hominy”.