creamy grits with corn, bacon, and tomatoes

I’ve been playing stay-at-home-mom this week. School starts next Monday, so I took this week off to spend with my kids before the fall chaos begins again. My week has been filled with sticker art, the new Winnie-the-Pooh movie, moving Oliver into his first real bed (a bunk bed!), thoughts of Jennie and her girls, breaking up arguments, donating to the Goodwill, lots of snack time, a little bit of pool time, many time outs, building forts out of cardboard boxes, making pancakes, listening to whining and bickering, organizing and cleaning, lots of cleaning.

These are the little ones who have kept me on my toes all week:

And this little girl has gotten into her fair share of mischief, too. But she’s so cute, it’s hard to get mad at her.

Though the new school year will bring homework, probably more than last year, it will also bring some semblance of routine back into our lives. I’m looking ahead to some busy weeks for all of us in this house but I think we can handle it all. Besides the homework issue, swimming lessons for both kids will resume. I’m headed out of town at the end of next week for a few nights (I’m speaking at a conference), and then I’ll start a busy 2-week stretch of call in the hospital on September 1st.

I wasn’t ready for fall when I posted this a couple of weeks ago, but I think I’m ready now. The summer’s stifling heat and humidity have chased me off my front porch, and I’m ready to get back to my early evening habit of sitting in my rocker with my iPad and a glass of something cool and refreshing, listening to the neighborhood noises.

Though autumn doesn’t technically begin until late in September, I consider this the last week of summer. And to celebrate the arrival of fall – or perhaps to mourn the end of summer – I made a dish combining my favorite comfort food – grits – with fresh tomatoes and corn. A bowl of this is all I need for a complete meal, but it could just as easily be a savory side dish.

What matters most is that there are grits, and grits always make me happy, regardless of season.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Creamy Grits with Corn, Bacon, and Tomatoes

These grits make a great savory side dish or a simple and comforting main dish.


3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup white stone ground grits
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh corn kernels (approximately 1 ear of corn)
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
2 slices crisp-cooked bacon, chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Kosher salt

Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)


Bring water and milk just to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Meanwhile, cover grits with water in a large bowl and whisk vigorously. Let stand for 30 seconds, then, using a fine-mesh sieve, skim off any chaff that has floated to the surface. Drain grits well in the fine-mesh sieve and whisk into the simmering milk.

Reduce heat to low and simmer grits, partially covered, stirring often with a heatproof rubber spatula, about 1 hour, until grits are tender and thickened to loose-oatmeal consistency. Stir more toward the end of cooking to prevent scorching.

While the grits are simmering, heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add corn, tomato, bacon, shallot, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of kosher salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until the shallot is translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the grits are tender and done simmering, stir in cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir the corn and tomato mixture into the grits, garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and serve.

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29 Responses to “not my father’s stewed tomatoes”

  1. 1
    Aggie — May 9, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

    I feel like I just ate that whole meal with you, it sounded so delicious & you described it so well. I would love to try this recipe out, and I think my father in law, a stewed tomato out of the can lover, would appreciate & love it as well.

  2. 2
    Kathryn — May 10, 2013 @ 6:20 am

    I’ll be honest and say I’ve never even heard of stewed tomatoes before but you describe them so wonderfully that I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and make a batch.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 10th, 2013 @ 6:52 am

      I believe stewed tomatoes are a southern USA phenomenon. If you try them, you’ll have to let me know what you think!

  3. 3
    Alice Martin — May 10, 2013 @ 6:28 am

    Merry Jennifer, you never knew how much I loved stewed tomatoes. When we moved from south Florida to northern Florida I learned my new friends called them, “tomato gravy” and served them over rice. Whatever you call them, whatever whatever you put them on, they are wonderful and I can’t wait try your recipe. (I think the sugar is the secret to making them out of this world.)

  4. 4
    Boyce D. George — May 10, 2013 @ 8:15 am

    Merry Jennifer I certainly enjoyed your comments although I wish our time together had been under different circumstances. I have never really enjoyed stewed tomatoes as my mother made them in the summer time with fresh tomatoes from our huge garden. My parents and brothers all liked them, but I was the odd man out.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 11th, 2013 @ 10:08 am

      I’m looking forward to seeing you again, Boyce, under much better circumstances. Thank you so much for being there for me and Mom. It was a highlight for us.

  5. 5
    Lynda - TasteFood — May 10, 2013 @ 11:21 am

    I was force-fed stewed tomatoes as a child as well. Now I love everything to do with tomatoes. This recipe is a keeper for sure. Lovely post MJ.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 11th, 2013 @ 10:07 am

      I’m exactly the same, Lynda. Tomatoes are now my favorite food! Well, besides cake.

  6. 6
    Di — May 10, 2013 @ 11:21 am

    My mother was from Macon, Georgia. She made stewed tomatoes the same way your Dad did. I always loved them but never think to make them. I can’t wait to try your recipe !

  7. 7

    I am so glad you are finding strength through the blogging community because often time I find my comfort in the blogging world too – everyone is so supportive 🙂 your posts are always so sincere and thoughtful..

  8. 8
    Macaroni Mama — May 10, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

    I felt like I was being punished as well. Yuck! Couldn’t stand stewed tomatoes. I love your blog!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 11th, 2013 @ 10:07 am

      Thank you, Mom. 🙂

  9. 9
    Jenn S. — May 11, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    Stewed tomatoes (known during my childhood as “tomatoes n’ rice, since the tomatoes were always accompanied by sticky, buttered white rice!) remind me so much of my dear Mama. She always served tomatoes and rice with her fried pork chops and often with her fried cube steak. I had the luxury of growing up on fresh-frozen tomatoes, as my Mama and Daddy would put up a “mess” of fresh, slightly-stewed tomatoes every year in quart baggies to last us through the fall and winter. Oh, they were so delicious (my mouth is watering!) My recipe varies slightly from yours, MJ, in that I start with a tiny bit of bacon grease for flavor, use fresh-frozen tomatoes when I have the luxury (canned plum, if not), white sugar, instead of brown, salt, pepper, and a bit of cornstarch (first dissolved in cold water) as my thickener. Mmmmm, guess what I’m serving for dinner tonight?? Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — May 11th, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

      Your version sounds amazing, Jenn. I’m going to have to raid your Mama’s recipe box one of these days. I bet there are some real gems in there.

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  11. 10

    Isn’t it amazing how food can have a calming effect on us. Whether it’s cooking it or eating it, there’s something about how it can soothe ones nerves. These tomatoes sound so perfect for a meal when you need your insides to be hugged.

  12. 11
    Nutmeg Nanny — May 14, 2013 @ 11:00 am

    I love stewed tomatoes, this sounds great 🙂

  13. 12
    Paula — May 15, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    This was a lovely post. You are such a wonderfully eloquent writer and your strength of character is truly inspirational.

  14. 13
    Kiran @ — May 15, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

    Food is so comforting and I’m glad you all are finding some comfort in this all. Hugs.

  15. 14
    Frank Smith — September 7, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

    I loved my mother’s stewed tomatoes. She took them from the garden. As a depression wife, she did not have fancy ingredients, so I thought it was just tomatoes and bread. Obviously note. I used fresh garden tomato and cooked them in a pot with your ingredients, drained off excess liquid [great soup], added the bread and put in baking dish. Baked as you said. Terrific! I think mother would have added a bit of cinnamon, so I will do so next time. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. 15
    Denise — April 18, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

    The first time I’ve had stewed tomatoes as a gravy was in January. My granaunt I. DC made them for breakfast w/grits and they were SOOOOO good. She’s from South Carolina, so they were real southern good! I don’t remember bread being in the tomatoes, but we’ll see. I’m going to try your recipe soon, I can’t wait.

  17. 16
    QSuzi — June 2, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

    Just FYI….
    I was told by a cook from Cunninghams back when they were  still located at Fifth and York ( so many years before they had the Creekside location) that they use hamburger buns instead of sandwich bread. Hamburger buns are sweeter and really do make a difference. Your representation of their fish is, however, most delicious!  Thank you.

  18. 17
    Michael Henry — December 29, 2016 @ 10:02 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of a dish I love but seldom think to prepare. I’m another displaced Kentuckian, living in Georgia for many years. I’ve never worked from a printed recipe on this, but just make it from memory of the way my grandmother did. She used white sugar rather than brown, and for bread used pieces of stale biscuits (her own homemade). She also allowed the bread pieces on top to brown near the end of cooking, so that it almost looked like a cobbler. Don’t overcook, as leftovers will not be as juicy as the first time.

  19. 18
    Jim W — January 29, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

    Good afternoon Merry-Jennifer, I too have a childhood stewed tomato memory. Now that Mom is gone I find myself trying to recreate many of the wonderful dishes she prepared for us in our East Louisville home. Her recipe was exactly as yours except for the bread and liquid. Mom would always use all the liquid and bring the tomatoes to a low boil on the stove top. Then she would open canned biscuits and pinch off small pieces of dough into the pot until the surface was covered. As the dough would cook and “plump” the small dumplings would soak up the brown sugar sweetened tomato syrup. I’m making a double batch now for a church dinner tonight. We have a few Yankees in the group and I always try to bring a uniquely Mom inspired Southern dish. Look forward to seeing more of your recipes, Thank You.

  20. 19
    Robert Pait — May 17, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

    I have just whipped up a batch of these and I find that I will cut the recipe in half next time because it makes a lot. I also did not use any butter. I will let you know how they come out, I’m serving with rice and Dill breaded pork chops.

  21. 20
    Melanie Holley — February 2, 2018 @ 4:42 pm

    I tried your recipe and have made it again and again. When I find one that I will make more than once, I write it on an index card and put it into the wooden card file that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Maybe my kids will end up trying it someday. Or their kids. As a child, I often saw my grandfather eat stewed tomatoes – usually home canned by my grandmother, but sometimes store bought. He would stir in some white sugar, roll a piece of “light bread” up and dunk it in. We kids never tried it and now I know we missed out on something good.

  22. 21
    Dani Gonzales — February 25, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

    Hello there Merry-Jennifer. I was searching for a stewed tomato recipe and came across yours, your post was so interesting that I stayed reading other posts for half an hour! My deepest sympathies on the loss of your father. Ironically, I was searching because my mother is in end stage lung cancer and craving tomatoes like crazy. She told me about a stewed tomato dish my grandmother used to prepare when she was a child. It is very similar to yours except grandma put bread crumbs and slices of butter on top and popped the dish in the oven before serving. Thank you for a nice half hour of good reading,  I look forward to future posts! 

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 25th, 2018 @ 6:51 pm

      I hope your mom likes this dish. I’m so sorry that she’s going through lung cancer. Such a devastating disease. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

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