What is a grit?

Grits are small broken grains of corn. They were first produced by Native Americans centuries ago. They made both "corn" grits and "hominy" grits. Falls Mill produces "corn" grits.

bowl of grits

Corn Grits
Falls Mill mills locally grown whole white hybrid corn. The corn is dried to a 14% moisture content, then each kernel is cleaned with forced air. The kernels of grain are run through the mill stone where they are ground to a certain texture and then sifted through two wire mesh screens. The three products sorted are white corn meal, white corn grits and the bran that pops off. There is a fine bran still in the grits product. This bran will never soften up with cooking. Depending on personal preference, the bran can be left in or removed by rinsing the grits before cooking. Yummy!

Hominy
Is made from field corn that is soaked in lye water (potash water in the old days) and stirred over the next day or two until the entire shell or bran comes loose and rises to the top. The kernel itself swells to twice its original size. After the remaining kernels have been rinsed several times, they are spread to dry either on cloth or screen dryers.

How Corn Grits are made at Falls Mill
The first step in the production of our whole corn grits is the purchase of hybrid white corn from a local farmer. We pull a small grain wagon to his storage bin and auger out about 125 bushels of corn at a time. We weigh the corn and then bring it to the mill for unloading and cleaning. We auger it from the wagon into the mill building, where it is deposited in a floor bin. An elevator, running off our water wheel, picks up the corn a bucket at a time and carries it to the second floor grain cleaner. The cleaner has two shaker screens and a bottom blast fan, which operate to remove stalk, cob, unwanted seeds, cockleburs, and other field trash from the corn. The cleaned corn then drops into a basement auger, which moves it to a second elevator, where it is again carried upstairs and may be conveyed to one of four grain storage bins (usually the grinding bin above the millstones). It takes about five hours for us to unload and clean the 125 bushels.

When ready to mill, we belt up the millstones, fan suction system, and grits separator, and step up the speed of the water wheel, which drives all the machinery through a series of gears, flats belts, line shafts, and pulleys. The millstones we use are a set of 42-inch horizontal granite buhrs manufactured by the R.D. Cole Company of Newnan, Georgia, around the turn of the century. The granite was quarried at the Esopus Quarry in New York state. The millstones rotate about 125 revolutions per minute, and the upper (runner) stone weighs more than 1,500 pounds. Corn is fed into the stones via the hopper and shoe, from the upstairs storage bin. The stones are separated wider than when milling pure corn meal to obtain a coarser product. However, the milled product is a mixture of cracked corn, grits, and corn meal, so must be separated in a sifter (grits separator). As it comes off the stones, it falls into a pipe where the fan suction carries it to the second floor and drops it into the sifter. The corn meal is first sifted through a #20 screen and drops into a bagging bin on the first floor. The coarser product travels over this screen and grits drop through a #12 screen next, into a second bin below. The cracked corn tails off the end of the sifting drum and we regrind it to obtain more grits. The final yield is roughly 55% corn meal, 40% grits, and 5% light bran. The grits, however, will still contain a little bran or chaff. This is usually skimmed off prior to cooking.

No lye products are used in the processing of Falls Mill's grits.

John and Jane Lovett, Owners, Falls Mill & Country Store, 1873

We hope you learned a lot about grits from reading this!