Our farmer's markets are starting up again, and there is no better way to support sustainability and econonomic growth in you community than shopping at one!
The benefits of buying from local business are relatively indisputable. Here is an article from Time magazine touting the benefits of shopping at your locally owned business. Another article from Huffington Post contains an info graphic showing a number of benefits to shopping at local businesses.
I spend no small number of hours at farmer's markets this this time of year. There is no better way to find local makers and to support them by visiting your farmer's market.
So take a few minutes this week, grab your shopping bags, and buy some groceries at your farmer's market. It's goo for everyone in your community!
Here are a few you can find us at regularly, complete with links.
It's not uncommon for us to ship grits to far outside of the Mason-Dixon line. Usually I just assume it is either a southerner unable to find that staple of the south outside of their native land, or someone who wants to know what this grits thing is all about.
This was indeed an expatriate southerner to whom we shipped some grits last week; a freindly and curious person named Nicole, who asked for information about us. To my plesant suprise, she is a blogger, and she was nice enough to give us a little attention in her blog Clean Soul Living.
We are honored to get this kind of attention, and she included us with some prestigous company.
Thanks Nicole! We really appreciate it!
You can check out her blog here.
Lawrence and I want to extend a very special thanks to Susan Ardis for featuring our company in The State.
You can check the article out here.
We're hitting two big farmer's markets today, so come see us for the best stone-ground products available.
Today I'll be packing a bunch of polenta in respone to many students asking for something they can cook in the microwave. Well, the microwave works pretty well for this!
In the intrest of time, I am linking up to this excellent recipe on the Kitchn. I used a bit more salt and water, and cooked the polenta a touch longer. I'm sure you could use stock instead of water. As always, use your judgement and your senses when you use our products!
A Year to Remember!
A year of struggle and adversity brought out the best in our fair state. Through tragedy, we as citizens led our elected officials to make the right decisions that have made a more inclusive State Government. Although this only indirectly affected our business (as when violent hate groups flocked to our state, driving down business at local markets), we were there, cheering the positive change that so seldom seems to come from our state leaders. From the tragedy of hatred, the people of South Carolina harnessed the momentum, using the inertia of Justice to change this place we call home for the better. We applaud you, the people of South Carolina and Governor Haley.
Even as we as a state may have thought the long, hot, dry summer of 2015 was historic, our weather took a drastic turn and gave us a nasty surprise. The weeks of rain that preceded the weekend of October 1st and had seemed just an inconvenience suddenly took a deadly turn.
The rivers and streams of the Piedmont and Low Country swelled with rain and overflowed their banks, destroying property and taking lives. As I recount it now, I'm sure no-one who lived in Columbia through those fateful days will ever forget those tragic events. Many lost everything.
How We Helped
From our inception as a company, being part of the fabric of our community was a goal. So, on the 3rd of October, I called my friend Bryan Tayara of the Rosewood Market, and we delivered several pallets of drinking water to various shelters in the Columbia area. As the call went out for trucks to deliver water and food to affected communities, we were able to spend a day helping the Harvest Hope Food Bank deliver water and food to two different flooded neighborhoods. For these opportunities, I would like to thank Carrie Draper for alerting me.
As business-as-usual took a back seat to the need to find fresh water and provisions, economic pressures affected not only our business, but those that we rely on, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer's markets. But throughout the difficulty, we always knew that we were the lucky ones, still in our own homes with our families.
As the City struggled to its feet, some of our creative and fun-loving citizens decided to help by doing one of the things we do so well. We had a party! For the "Big Dam" benefit, we would like to thank Mr.Tom Hall, Eric and Robbie McClam, and Emile DeFelice (not to mention the staff of City Roots and Soda City)! Thanks to all involved parties for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great event!
In 2016, we resolve to revisit our flood relief efforts, assisting the organizations and charities still leading the charge in ongoing recovery efforts.
Sticking to Our Goals
The freakish weather of 2015 introduces a perfect segue into a brief summary of our efforts to become a zero-waste business. Even as businesses took the forefront in addressing their roles in anthropomorphic global climate change, many unapologetic polluters doubled down. Of the many instances of this counter-offensive by businesses ignoring all the available evidence, I found a few memorable: the worst by far was the "recycling is terrible" article I read.
Recycling (especially of cardboard, paper, aluminum, and other metals) will save energy in the refining process, and preserve the environment by reducing the need for extraction.
We still believe that recycling is the best way for us to be good corporate citizens. And we did quite a bit of recycling in 2015!
We recycle a great deal of paper and cardboard at The Congaree Milling Company. In 2015, we recycled 73 pounds of cardboard and 220 pounds of paper. These range from Kraft paper sacks to junk mail and office paper. I would like to thank Allie Mason (the Farm Manager at USC's Green Quad) for taking some of these as a biodegradeable mulch for the Carolina Community Garden at USC. By doing this, we took a waste product and made it a helpful part of a food-generating system. On an interpersonal level, we made some great friends!
We also recycle metal (90 pounds recycled in 2015), some batteries (27 pounds), electronics, motor oil, and even cooking oil (8 gallons). We even helped negotiate a contract with a local restaurant and Midlands Bio-fuels (one of our favorite businesses) to get their cooking oil turned into bio-diesel.
With the help of Dan Scheel, we composted over 1,000 pounds of restaurant waste!. Our composting project actually cost us money, but it fulfilled the goal of bringing our company very close to being a zero-waste business (a stated goal of ours). Additionally, it provided some great compost for our friends at City Roots!
As we move forward, we hope to bring our clients, vendors, and business associates into the fold, working to be a community that takes only what it needs from the environment to accomplish our goals.
We continued our charitable work, most notably our donation of a gift basket to the Harvest Hope Food Bank's Empty Bowls silent auction. We were also proud to donate some Shrimp and Grits to the SERTOMA Club's annual Tailgate Party benefiting charity. As we did last year, we donated another gift basket to the silent auction at Rosewood Elementary.
In our volunteering efforts, we did volunteer shifts for Sustainable Midlands at both the Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival (directing parking), and at the St. Patrick's Day Festival (collecting recyclables).
Here's to 2016!
We hope that in 2016, we strengthen our ties to our community and other like-minded businesses and people, and remain dedicated to our goals of sustainability and success.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patronage that makes all of this possible.
Happy New Year!
Our friend Eva Moore at the Free Times wrote an article about our Real Hominy Grits. Check it out here
An Essential Flavor of the Season
As the weather cools, our thoughts (and inevitably our palettes) turn to comfort foods. That means soups, stews and chilies grace our tables with their comforting warmth against the winter chill. But every soup needs a bread to accompany it, and in the South that means cornbread! And what would Thanksgiving be without dressing and gravy?
A Taste of the Way it Was
Honestly, I didn't enjoy the stuff much as a child, and I'm sure the same criticisms often aimed at grits apply equally to cornmeal and cornbread mixes, and for the same reasons. For any large mill, delivering a really freshly milled cornmeal or cornbread mix to the shelves of stores was technically impossible. The mill had to decide whether to ship a de-germed (and inherently flavorless) cornmeal to the store that lacked flavor, or risk having their product go rancid on the store shelves.
This is where our product has a distinct advantage: it is whole grain. This not only means flavor, but naturally occurring nutrition. Before the advent of widespread wet mills, cornmeal wasn't expected to last very long: the old-timers knew it would go rancid. De-germed corn products were welcomed in the same way T.V. dinners were. The convenience seemed worth the trade at the time.
Our small-scale runs are milled to order, allowing us to encapsulate freshly milled flavor and ship it directly to you! It's just freshly-milled, stone-ground organic cornmeal. And nothing else!
A Few Ways to do it
I've made cornbread several ways, but the purists out there may say that the only way to do it is in a black skillet . I admit, that is a great way to do it! However, I have gotten some great use out of my muffin tin (well-greased and not pre-heated). I have also seen yogurt and sour cream used very effectively to create a moist cornbread. I have added creamed corn, jalapeno pimento cheese, and canned Serrano peppers to cornbread, all to satisfying effect. We won't even judge you if you decide to blend in some wheat flour. We like to play around in the kitchen!
So we are including a few links to our favorites (some of our own, and some we just really like. Click on the links below to get cooking.
Note: Coarse cornmeal is generally used for cornbread,but fine cornmeal makes a cornbread with a finer texture.
Click here for basic cornbread.
Click here for creamed corn cornbread.
Click here for a sweet, moist cornbread.
Click here for cornbread stuffing.
Click here for brown butter skillet cornbread.
It took awhile to get to it, I admit, but we wanted to take the opportunity to thank Anne Postic for the shout-out in Design Sponge. This is a really big deal for us!
I have known Anne since the days of Hanna Jane's in Five Points, which shared a kitchen with Monterrey Jack's (where I worked the illustrious position at the steam table under the leadership of Joe Turklay). But not to bore you with anecdotes--although there are a quite a few that involve that place and those days.....
So thanks again, Anne. We really appreciate it!
Check out the article here.
Crock Pot Grits
“AN HOUR!” is a refrain I often hear from potential customers when asked about how to cook coarse ground grits. I hide my inner exasperation, and solider on, extolling the virtues of the product, and the flavorful rewards of patience. But I agree. An hour is a long time, even if there are plenty of other dishes to cook with the meal. I find myself offering up a bag of quick grits or polenta in an effort to salvage the sale. But there is nothing quite like the texture of coarse stone-ground grits. They're just the 'real deal” for the honest Southern experience that is grits. The only problem: the cooking time for coarse grits hearkens to a time when households had dedicated cooks that could take the time to cook the grits over a low heat to the point of “done-ness,” where the largest particles give way at the first chew in a manner not unlike pasta.
This time commitment is a big deal (and often a deal breaker). But there is another way that is much easier, even if it paradoxically takes a great deal longer than an hour. It is the crock pot, or the slow cooker. With about five minutes of total work, you can enjoy a big pot of coarse ground grits for any meal!
The cooking technique is made easier buy the slow cooker's low heat. The metal pot against a heating element or gas flame is too hot to leave unattended for more than five minutes on even the lowest stove top setting. But the electric heating element of a slow cooker is tempered by the thick ceramic cooking vessel, proving a low, consistent heat over may hours that will render the big grits particles supple and satisfyingly soft. And the recipe also work for quick grits and polenta, with varying cooking times.
To give it a whirl, follow the link to the recipe here.
Sometimes, only coarse grits will do. Sometimes we fail to plan ahead for the hour or more required to get those coarse stone-ground grits to that perfect softness that is reminiscent of a nice tiny piece of pasta. So what to do? You want grits, and you want them now! Enter the pressure-cooker!
Cooking grits and it's finer relatives, quick grits and polenta, is all about hydrating the largest particle through and through. This is where the pressure-cooker stands out in its ability. Unlike the stove top, which simply uses heat to get the grits to absorb water, the pressure-cooker forces the hot water into the grits in a much shorter time span, with hardly any stirring!
The pressure-cooker also works with quick grits and polenta. Cook quick grits for 20 minutes on high pressure, and polenta for 15.
Before you start, please be sure to read the instructions to your pressure cooker. Pressurized steam is super dangerous. Obey all safety instructions included with your cooker.
1 Cup Coarse Grits
3 ½ Cups Water or Stock (1 Cup of Milk, Buttermilk, Half and Half. Etc. may be exchanged for 1 Cup Water)
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp butter
Recipe can be adjusted to scale.
Add the 3 ½ cups of stock or water to the Pressure cooker then add the 1 cup of grits. Whisk briskly for a minute. Using a fine tea strainer, Let the grits settle to the bottom.“Wash” the grits by carefully skimming the floating material off of the surface. Discard material in the tea strainer. Don't scoop up the grits in the bottom!
Add salt. Whisk briskly for a minute.
Seal the cooker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Cook the grits on high pressure for 25 minutes.
When the cooker is finished, carefully release the pressure on the cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use quick release rather than natural.
Let the cooker cool for a few minutes.
Add salt, if needed
Add cheese or any other desired ingredients.
Whisk briskly again to remove any lumps that may have formed.