Cornmeal mush is the absolute cheapest hot cereal you can make. A large bowlful costs less than 4¢. That is not a typo. Seriously, for less than a nickel, you can get a big bowlful of hot cereal that will keep you going until lunchtime. If you add a bit of milk, sugar and even a pat of margarine, you’re still looking at under 15¢. If you cook it in milk, to make it more filling and nutritious, it will cost less than a quarter (25¢). Add sugar and additional milk, and it’s still under 35¢. If you are poor, you need to know how to make cornmeal mush. It can save you from starvation.
Grits are very popular in the South, but not so popular in the rest of the world. If you have access to cheap grits, then this recipe will work just fine for them. Quick Grits are usually more affordable than any other type, however this recipe will also work for old-fashioned grits. They simply need to boil a little longer. Instant grits are a huge ripoff. Don’t bother with them.
If you don’t like grits, or don’t have access to them, then just use yellow or white cornmeal, whichever is cheapest in your area. Both grits and cornmeal turn out good hot cereal.
While normally mush is cooked in water, if you want to make it creamier or add more nutrition to it, you may cook it in milk, or half milk and half water. If you use milk then be sure to keep the temperature low and stir it frequently so it doesn’t burn.
This recipe makes 1-serving. Double the recipe for 2-servings.
- 1 cup water OR milk OR half each
- 1/4 cup cornmeal OR grits
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon margarine
Measure the water or milk into a small saucepan, about 1-quart in size. Add the cornmeal or grits and a pinch of salt. If you’re adding margarine you can add it now too. Bring the cornmeal or grits to a boil over high heat. When it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes, or until it thicken. Stir it now and then to keep it from lumping.
When the cereal is somewhat thickened reduce the heat to low and allow it to barely simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until done to your liking. If you are cooking old-fashioned grits you may need to cook it for 15 to 20 minutes to get it all the way tender.
Scrape the mush into a cereal bowl. You can serve it plain, maybe with a pat of margarine on top. Or sprinkle a little brown or white sugar on top. Pour on a little milk and eat with a spoon.
You can add fruit if you like, sliced bananas, raisins and chopped apples are all cheap and taste good with the mush. Some people add a little cinnamon, but I don’t.
If you want something more savory, then omit any sugar or milk. Stir in a spoonful of bacon bits or a little chopped, leftover meat like ham, fried baloney, sausage or ground beef. Add a dash of garlic or onion powder.
The most popular thing to add is cheese. To make Cheesy Grits or Cheesy Mush then stir in an ounce of Velveeta-type cheese or 1/4-cup of shredded cheese right before serving.
My kids like Pizza Style the best for afternoon snacks. They stir a little mozzarella into their cornmeal mush or grits, then top it with a couple of spoonfuls of canned spaghetti sauce. Chopped onions are good on top. When my boys were babies, this was one of their favorite foods, without the onion. Now they both still eat it without complaint.
My favorite way to serve grits or mush is under a fried egg that still has a runny yolk. The yolk runs down in the cereal and tastes pretty good.
If you pour the mush (not grits) into a loaf pan and refrigerate it, you can later slice it and fry the slices — kind of like cooking french toast. Fried mush is good with syrup or fresh fruit for breakfast or a dessert. Or, serve a savory sauce (spaghetti sauce, mixed vegetables, peas or lentils, etc.) on top. You can call your fried mush “polenta” if you want to make it sound exotic!