Made in the South Awards

2016 Food Category

A tasty by-product of the rice-polishing process becomes a best seller for a family of Mississippi farmers

Photo: Whitney Ott

Food Category Winner

Product: Rice grits
Made in: Rulesville, MS
Est.: 2014

With just a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt, these velvety, Mississippi-grown rice grits—grains broken during the rice-polishing process, otherwise called middlings—become an addictively nutty base for grillades and sautéed shrimp, or a worthy sideshow to bacon and eggs. For generations, Southern growers kept the leftover nubs for their own tables after selling the more valuable whole grains—certainly a habit of David Arant, Jr., who runs Delta Blues Rice with his father, David, and his uncle, Hugh, in Ruleville. After friends and relatives began raving about the Arants’ version, the side’s popularity spread to Southern restaurants such as Angeline in New Orleans and Saltine Oyster Bar in Jackson, Mississippi. Now that the rest of us are catching on, Delta Blues ships hand-packed bags of their white and brown varieties all over the country to meet the appetite. “We can’t keep up with demand using only our accidentally broken grains anymore,” Arant says.

Price: $5

Food Category Runners-Up

French Broad Chocolates
Product: Malted milk chocolate bars
Made in: Asheville, NC
Est.: 2006

To create this creamy, nostalgic offering, the owners of French Broad Chocolates had to think like kids. “Malted milk is such a beautiful childhood flavor,” says Jael Rattigan, who runs the Asheville bean-to-bar company with her husband, Dan. The combination of dark milk chocolate and toasted malted barley from nearby Riverbend—one of the few small-time malt houses in the country—also suits their microregional mission. While the couple imports cacao from Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, they process the whole beans on-site and then lace the chocolate with local ingredients such as sorghum, strawberries, and now malted barley—a natural pairing considering their suds-soaked hometown. Try the 44 percent cacao bar with a stout. Or, as Jael says, “it makes one hell of a s’more.”

Price: $11

Pogue Mahone Pickles
Product: Dill pickle mustard
Made in: Austin, TX
Est.: 2012

By age ten, Sam Addison was already working on the brine that led to this ingenious sandwich spread, which marries the burn of mustard with the salty-sour kick of dill pickles. The Virginia native moved to Austin for culinary school and now sells four popular kinds of cold-pack cukes. That means lots of leftover juice. Last year, he decided the excess had to be good for something. Then a friend’s lesson in mustard-making sparked an idea: What if he soaked mustard seeds in his dill and garlic recipe, which has the same basic components—water, vinegar, spices—as a traditional mustard base? That experiment led to this punchy condiment, to which he also adds extra dill, garlic, and secret ingredients. Addison likes to “spread it thick” on one of the staples of his adopted home state: a kolache.

Price: $8

Blackberry Farm
Product: Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Made in: Walland, TN
Est.: 2004

With a rich, fudgy consistency and a palate-tickling lactic bite, Little Ewe makes a strong case for why expert cheese makers should partner with responsible shepherds. “Happy animals make happy milk,” says Blackberry Farm’s Chris Osborne of the pasture-raised sheep whose milk he sources from nearby Indian Crest Farms. But there’s more to this rustic round than grass-fed magic. Osborne, who shares Blackberry’s obsession with quality, takes a methodical approach to his craft, constantly tweaking the farmhouse cheese through its two-week aging process. “What I do is art combined with chemistry,” he says. Even so, he isn’t above a jam garnish: “Our preservationist makes a strawberry rhubarb preserve that’s a match made in heaven.” As is pairing a wedge with a glass of champagne.

Price: $14