Hominy has a long history as a traditional Native American food. Made from dried corn kernels, hominy, along with many other corn-based foods, was a staple of Native American tribes for centuries, and European settlers soon adopted it.
It’s hard to say for sure when hominy was first created, but Native Americans first cultivated corn, or maize, between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, and once it was introduced to their diets, they ate maize in various forms at almost every meal. Hominy was a well-established food by the time Native Americans introduced it to European settlers in 1620, under names like rockamoninie (“parched corn”) or tackhummin (“hulled corn”).
The Early United States
Through to the 1800s, American cooks made hominy or “samp” by soaking dried corn kernels in a lye solution and then pounding the kernels with a mortar and pestle or “samp mill”, and then boiling with water to form a porridge or pudding. Hominy became especially popular in the South, where it is is ground to make “hominy grits” or “grits.” In the South, grits were once so common a starch at meals that they were known as “Southern potatoes.”
In the Southwest hominy became part of a different culinary tradition. Hominy and pork form the main ingredients of a pozole, a traditional Mexican stew.
Hominy today is closely associated with Southern food and grits. It can still be soaked with ash, but some modern cooks also use soda. It’s rare, however, for cooks today to make their own hominy. Now, canned hominy as well as quick or instant grits are available at most grocery stores.
References and ResourcesDC American History Project: American Corn History
Food Timeline: About Hominy and Grits
Sally Bernstein: Good Hominy Grits