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The Foodies: Frank, Helen, Frank Jr., & Luke McEwen

McEwen & Sons • Wilsonville, Alabama

“Chris Hastings was the only chef to use our red grits last fall! We labeled them ‘Crimson and White’ grits and they were served with shrimp.” — Frank McEwen

“Chris Hastings was the only chef to use our red grits last fall! We labeled them ‘Crimson and White’ grits and they were served with shrimp.” — Frank McEwen

Wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle, Frank and his wife Helen began making their own whole grains and choosing organic foods when they were a young couple. Years later that hobby turned into McEwen & Sons, their family that makes stone-ground organic grits, cornmeal, and polenta using a stone burr grist mill. The McEwens sell their 100 percent naturally made products in their market located on property, as well as to various restaurants nationwide. mcewenandsons.com

Q & A

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A whisk! That’s the way we get our polenta the smoothest.

Top seller: Grits or polenta?
Definitely grits — it’s a Southern staple! Polenta is popular but grits is the winner. 

Do you grow corn also?
No, not for the grits – it’s hard to grow organic corn down here in the South. We do buy from one organic farmer and get it from his corn belt. There’s just not enough time and hours in the day to be full time farmers and grow our own organic corn.

What goes with grits?
Eggs, of course. We raise every kind of chicken under the sun! We have around 1,000, although they don’t all lay eggs at the same time. Frank Jr. and Luke raise chickens that produce big brown and blue eggs. They are raised in a free range, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free environment.

Warm Johnny Cakes with Blackberries

Recipe from Chef Chris Hastings

1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, divided
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 cups fresh blackberries
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
3 cups vanilla ice cream

1. Combine milk, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon rind in a saucepan; cook over low heat until mixture reaches 110°F, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add yeast, and cover and steep 15 minutes. Whisk together cornmeal and milk mixture until smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes. While batter is rising, place
blackberries in a bowl, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir in lemon juice and remaining 3/4 teaspoon lemon rind. Allow berries to sit at room temperature 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Beat egg whites at low speed with electric mixer until foamy. With machine running on low, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Increase speed to medium, and beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Once dough has risen and soaked up most of the liquid, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into dough batter, and fold until well-incorporated. Fold in remaining egg whites, being careful not to overmix or deflate batter.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add batter, 2 rounded tablespoons at a time, to form cakes about the size of silver dollars. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to plate; keep warm. Repeat with remaining butter and batter. Serve macerated blackberries and juices over cakes and ice cream. Serves 6.

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