Living High on Grits and Tomato Gravy
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 15, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Is there anything better than grits and tomato gravy in the morning? Like most southerners, I like my grits. But add a helping of tomato gravy and a baking powder biscuit, cathead size of course, and that is the perfect breakfast. So this summer when the tomatoes are coming on so fast you are at a loss as to how to use them, make an abundance of tomato gravy.
I recall growing up in Florida with particular affection. The long, lanky pines which surrounded our country home were more like companions to me than trees. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the woods. I had to learn to enjoy the woods, since we lived 32 miles from town. And we--like many other families--were on a tight budget so we stuck close to the house.
Because of that tight budget, we ate simple fare. There were times I complained about the food which my mother put on the table. I had no idea just how wonderful a pot of collard greens, freshly picked from the garden and cooked, truly was. Nor did I realize the simple joys to be had in a hot-buttered slice of cornbread. Now, biscuits I could relate to. Ah, to jab your finger into the side of a fat biscuit and then fill the resulting hole with syrup, honey, molasses or even jam. That is 'good eating' as we used to say. But sadly, I never appreciated tomato gravy with my grits. At least I did not until I was an adult and cooked up some grits, tomato gravy and cathead biscuits for breakfast one morning. After that day I was hooked. I also came to appreciate the simple fare we ate growing up. Not only because it is 'good eating', but also because it is economical to prepare. And with the cost of everything going up these days, an economical meal that tastes wonderful is a good thing.
Years later, I married a Midwestern farm boy and moved to the Midwest. He had never tasted tomato gravy before he met this southern chick. The first time I cooked tomato gravy and grits for my husband he fell in love with me all over again. I added a cathead biscuit and that man was wholly devoted to me for life. Whenever I need something done around the house I forgo the honey-do list. Instead I make cathead biscuits and offer them in trade for the chores! My Dear Hubby has vowed to sop up tomato gravy with me until the end. 'Sop up' in Deep South vernacular means to soak up gravy with your cathead biscuits.
Fresh, delicious tomatoes
How to Make the Tomato Gravy Breakfast
As gardeners we can make tomato gravy from fresh tomatoes. You can use any red, ripe tomatoes of the larger varieties. You may use two cans whole or chopped tomatoes in place of the fresh. Remember to reserve the juice. Some folks like to add minced shallots to their tomato gravy; I do not.
Tomato Gravy Recipe
1 pound bacon
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes with juice reserved
Cook the bacon in a skillet or iron pan until done. Remove bacon and drain excess drippings from pan. Break up several pieces of bacon and drop into pan. Place remaining bacon on a serving platter for the breakfast table. Sprinkle flour into the drippings and stir until it is bubbly and brown. This takes about one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice and simmer until thickened. This will take about ten minutes if you use fresh tomatoes and five minutes for canned. You may season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot grits or biscuits. Tomato gravy is also good with other dishes--try it with fish.
This recipe will serve 4 not-so-hungry folks. If feeding real hungry folks, cook twice as much.
Add Grits and Cathead Biscuits
There are a variety of grits on the market. Regular grits are my favorite, but it is sometimes difficult to find them where I live, so I use quick grits. Cook the grits according to the package directions.
For cathead biscuits, you may use any good baking powder biscuit recipe. To turn them into cathead biscuits, you cut them extra big. Make them the size of a huge Tomcat's head.
I hope you enjoy making tomato gravy, grits and cathead biscuits as much I do. But more than this, I hope you enjoy eating them as much as my family does.
I am glad for my simple childhood. It taught me to value people rather than possessions. But it also taught me to appreciate the simple joys of good eating. We share this breakfast at least once a month on my family farm. And that is living high on grits, tomato gravy and cathead biscuits.
My farm kitchen
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