How to make
Hominy and Masa from corn
From the Chile-Heads Mailing List
Subject: [CH] Makin' fresh masa
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 08:55:49 -0700
From: Rich McCormack <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On Tue, 14 Oct 1997, dwill <email@example.com> wrote:
I'm interested in finding out how to make masa: I've an idea that slaked lime is part of the process, but I'd be very interested in a proper recipe...
I've got a recipe for making tostaditas in my web pages but not a recipe for making masa to make the tortillas to make the tostaditas. I'm gonna have to fix that. I posted a recipe for making masa to the C-H mailing list around the end of last year, so it's in the archives somewhere. But, I don't think anyone will mind if I post it again.
To make fresh masa, you first need to make nixtamal.
Nixtamal is dried field corn soaked in, and
heated in, a solution of slaked lime and water. Slaked lime, calcium
hydroxide, is generally available in the form of "builder's lime" --
not to be confused with unslaked lime, calcium
oxide. Unslaked lime can't be used for making nixtamal unless you slake it first by adding it to water,
allowing it to
bubble and then stand for a bit, and then using the WATER for processing the dried corn. It's the lime, by the way, that contributes to the unique taste and texture of corn tortillas. After the corn has soaked for the required length of time (depending on whether making nixtamal for masa or pozole), it's rinsed to remove the lime and then rubbed to remove the husks.
4 quarts water
2 quarts dried field corn
5 Tablespoons powdered slaked lime (calcium hydroxide)
DO NOT USE UNSLAKED LIME (calcium oxide)
Mix lime and water in a large, non
reactive (enamel or stainless steel) pot. Place pot over high heat and
stir until lime is disolved. Add corn and, stiring occasionally, bring to a boil. If making nixtamal for masa to make
tortillas, boil for a couple of minutes, remove from heat, cover and let soak
overnight. If making nixtamal to make masa for tamales, boil for about 15 minutes, remove from
heat, cover and let soak for a couple of hours. If making nixtamal for pozole, boil for 15
minutes and let soak for another 5 to 10 minutes. After soaking for the
desired length of time, rinse the corn in a colander to remove all traces of
the lime while rubbing the kernals to remove the
softened hulls. Once cleaned, the nixtamal can
then be ground into masa or left whole to be further
simmered until tender to make hominy for pozole or menudo.
Making tortillas using fresh masa or masa harina
Masa harina is fresh masa that's been dried and then ground into a flour-like consistency, to make masa harina you must first make masa. Masa harina is similar to, but not the same as, fine ground cornmeal. Trying to make corn tortillas out of regular cornmeal, even finely ground, would probably be unsatisfying. I suppose it would be possible to make nixtamal for tortillas, grind it into masa, dry it, grind it again and then re-hydrate it to make tortillas. But why not just make fresh masa from nixtamal and then make tortillas with it. Both nixtamal and masa can be frozen for later use.
If you wanted to be authentic, you
could use a metate (a flat stone made from lava rock)
and mano (sorta like a
flattened, oval shaped rolling pin also made from lava rock) to grind the corn
into masa...but a plate-style grain mill is a lot
easier. My hand cranked
After the nixtamal
has been put through the mill, water should be worked into the masa as needed to make a medium-soft
consistency dough. Hand-patting tortilla dough is an art in itself and the
necessary skill takes a long time to learn (I tried it, but gave up out of
frustration). A rolling pin can be used, but a tortilla press works better.
I have both a cast iron and an aluminum press, but I don't see why one couldn't
use a couple pieces of hardwood and a hinge to fabricate a viable substitute
for a store-bought press.
Tortillas de Maiz
1 pound fresh masa for tortillas
1 3/4 cups masa harina reconstituted with
about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of warm water
Gradually knead the masa into a smooth consistency, pushing with the heal of the hand (3 to 5 minutes should be sufficient depending on whether using fresh masa or reconstitued masa harina). Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
Place a comal or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Break off a piece of the dough about the size of a golf ball and pat it a few times to partially flatten it. Place the ball of dough between a folded sheet of polyethylene (wax paper could probably be used in place of the plastic) on a tortilla press (a little off center towards the hinge) and press hard. Remove the tortilla from the press and peel off the plastic. If the dough has the correct amount of water, the plastic will peel easily off the tortilla. If the plastic sticks, the dough is too moist. If the tortilla cracks around the edges, the dough is to dry.
Place the tortilla on the hot, ungreased comal and bake until the edges start to dry (about 30 seconds). Flip and bake until lightly speckled on the underside (about 1 minute). Flip a second time and bake for about 30 seconds more. As the tortillas come off the comal, they should be wrapped together in a towel to keep them soft and warm. The side that's up after the second flip is considered the inside...where the filling would go if making tacos, flautas, enchiladas, or whatever.
To be honest, fresh nixtamal and masa (as well as
fresh tortillas) are so easy to find in So.
— Rich McCormack