Where to Buy Dried Hominy

Hominy, by Joel Penkman. Commissioned for the book Taste of America, and for sale on Etsy.

Hominy, by Joel Penkman. Commissioned for the book Taste of America by Phaidon.

Before embarking on your own culinary hominy adventure, you first need to find dried hominy. Of course, you can always grow it yourself, but that requires months of planning which you may or may not have already done.

In case you haven’t grown your own, here are some of the places I’ve had the most success finding dried hominy (in order of personal preference):

Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress Farmer's Market poster.

Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress’s Farmer’s Market poster.

  1. Your friendly neighborhood tienda. In Tuscaloosa, we have no less than six tiendas that I’ve checked out. All carry cans of Juanita’s Mexican style hominy, and four out of the six carry multiple kinds of dried maize suitable for making your own posole or hominy. Some even have beautiful heirloom corns in various colors. Typically, these are varieties are large with thin seed coats, which makes them relatively easy to process.
  2. The Internet. Of course the Internet, right? Sites like Rancho Gordo and Anson Mills offer reasonable amounts of hominy (about 1 lb.) for reasonable prices, though shipping may be a bit costly. Unfortunately, each only offers a single kind of hominy, and you may be in the mood for a more adventurous experience. If so, you can easily broaden your search and check out other vendors, but keep the following in mind: you do not want to purchase dried sweet corn if you plan to nixtamalize your maize. Flints, flours, dents, and pops are better suited for nixtamalization. In fact, while flints were the preferred variant used in the historic Eastern Woodlands, Anthony Boutard, author of Beautiful Corn, indicates Amish Butter, a pop, is one of his favorite for making hominy. Also, make sure the grain is food grade, especially if you’re buying in bulk. Corn is the number one food used for animal fodder, so a lot of what you may come across is intended for livestock. For my own research purposes, I purchased a 50 lb. bag from Honeyville Farms, which has made a delicious and colorful hominy over and over again, but have since tried a number of different corns from various vendors.
  3. And finally, you can always try your local Farmer’s Market, or even your local grocery store. At our Farmer’s Market, no one sells hominy corn, but there are several who sell their own corn meal from flour corns they’ve grown. However, some farms are beginning to branch into heirloom corns, including flints. Ayers Creek Farm, located in Gaston, Oregon, and a regular at multiple Portland-area farmers markets, has been at the forefront of cultivating multiple varieties of maize.

While ornamental Indian corn is the same as hominy corn, DO NOT buy corn marketed as ornamental and try to process/cook it. First, these cobs are usually covered in glue to keep the kernels attached. Second, most have been treated with various substances to maintain their sheen and luster. In short, they aren’t edible.

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3 thoughts on “Where to Buy Dried Hominy

  1. Rachel,

    We have been working with hominy over the past decade. I have a couple of observations that may be useful. The “skin” or pericarp of the kernel is not a significant factor in a corn variety’s quality when it comes to hominy. The hardness of the kernel, as well as its flavor, is determined by the proportion of protein in the starchy endosperm. The hardest kernels, popcorn races, have the highest levels of protein, flints are next, followed by dents. The endosperm of the flour races is largely starch. All of these sorts nixtamalize well, at least with pickling lime, and can make excellent hominy, provided the corn has good flavor at the start. We grow ‘Amish Butter’ popcorn and it makes my favorite hominy, both in terms of flavor and the size of the hominy. The woodland tribes of what is now the northeastern U.S. used the northern eight-row flints, a distinctive race endemic to that region, a sort that ripens well in the short growing season. Roy’s Calais flint is the type we grow. These high protein pops and flints have the best flavor and fragrance in my opinion. The dents and flour races need a longer season to fully ripen and dry, which limited their northern distribution. We are working on an intensely pigmented purple flour corn that will ripen in the Pacific Northwest and is suitable for making tortillas, but the final drying must be done inside.

    Our goal has been to break hominy free from the straight jacket of authenticity, and encourage people see it beyond the Mexican palate. One of our restaurant accounts, grounded in the cooking of northern France, makes a fragrant seafood soup using the Amish Butter hominy. Another which bills itself as a Roman restaurant serves flint corn hominy with tripe, Romanesco-style of course. A breakfast and lunch restaurant serves it in pulled pork with a hot Jamaican accent, topped with pickled onions. When a Guatemalan chef visited us a few years ago, he made a beautiful flint corn hominy salad with shaved shallots and green cayennes, lime juice and fried pork rinds. A chef we have worked with for several years is opening a middle-eastern restaurant, and we are looking forward to seeing how he will incorporate hominy into that menu. I have always been puzzled by the fact that corn has been incorporated into cuisines around the globe, but hominy was left in the Americas.

    Thank you for putting together this information, and encouraging people to experiment with different sorts of corn. If people express an interest in a greater diversity of corn types, farmers will eventually oblige. On our farm, we have had great fun working with grain corn and hominy, and it is so much more interesting than sweet corn.

    Anthony Boutard
    Ayers Creek Farm

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anthony—

    Thank you so much for your informative and thoughtful response. There’s so much I’ve learned about maize and hominy over the last few years, but one thing I never thought I’d learn is that you can use pops to make great hominy. I am still a bit amazed by this. Clearly, I’ll have to source some Amish Butter and try it for myself! Do you have any on-line merchants you’d recommend? And on that note, I would also love to include a link to Ayers Creek Farm have a website that I could link to? Right now, I’ve linked to your Facebook page.

    Based on your comment, it sounds like you largely use pickling lime to nixtamalize your maize. Have you ever used hardwood ash lye? I’ve been wondering if the kind of alkalizing agent used affects the final flavor. Not only are my experiments still in their early stages, but I doubt my palate is honed enough pick up on any discernible differences. I would love to hear any advice or ideas you have on this.

    Also, do you have a particular hominy recipe or nixtamalizing process you follow? So far, mine have varied depending on the kind hominy I plan on making—whole kernel with the pericarp rubbed off or included, cracked with the pericarp removed or still partially intact, etc. From what I’ve gathered so far, there’s a difference in the strength of the alkaline soaking solution based on whether I plan to grind my corn or make whole kernel hominy. Or, if I plan to skip soaking all together and instead boil the maize in an alkaline solution. As someone who has clearly experimented making hominy with many different varieties, is this something you’ve run across?

    I think you are absolutely right—if people develop an interest in greater varieties of corn, farmers and the market will oblige. I think an important step in that process is helping people envision how these corns can be incorporated into their daily meals by inspiring their imaginations. Your list of hominy dishes speaks directly to that mission—they are absolutely mouth-watering! I’d love to know more about the restaurants featuring your corns and ways they are incorporating them into their menus.

    Finally, on a personal note, I’d like to thank you for your book Beautiful Corn—I not only found it a fascinating read and a vital resource, but it was also one of the inspirations for this blog. I even have several blog posts I’m currently drafting that focus not only on your work but also the recipes you feature.

    Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel,

    We sell everything we grow locally, and it is a challenge to keep up with the demand. I am on a dial-up modem, and we have no website or other social media. A friend kindly posts our market emails on her blog, GoodStuffNW. Somehow or another, several tons of our corn finds its way onto the plates of Portlanders in the form of mush/grits/polenta, hominy or popped. For people with the stamina to hunt us down, we do send corn, beans and other crops we produce by mail with an invoice enclosed. Rancho Gordo and Ayers Creek have had a parallel life, started at the same time, Steve Sando enjoys the role of procurer and shop keeper with a national reputation, while Carol and I prefer to work intimately with a few varieties in the field and have very local relationships. I admire the work of Anson Mills and Rancho Gordo even if I have absolutely no interest in emulating them.

    Regarding popcorn, it is America’s ancient grain; the small kernels that explode with heat is corn’s ancestral trait. I think popcorn also the highest quality in terms of flavor and texture. We grind it for cornmeal and nixtamalize it for hominy, as well as eating it as popcorn. The first nixtamalized corn bore more similarity to our present day popcorn than the large types currently associated with hominy. ( Bear in mind, modern varieties are often selected for processing ease rather than flavor per se.) The baby ears are as sweet as any sweet corn. So, if you can only grow one sort, popcorn should be on the seed list. I know, there is an assumption in general population that popcorn is a novelty derived from some “normal” corn, however the opposite is the truth. Last year there was a long article in the New York Times on popcorn (1 October 2014), yet all the author covered was various flavorings for the popped kernel with a heavy dose of banal chattiness. Nary a word about hominy or cornmeal from popcorn varieties.
    It was a very dispiriting read.

    In Europe, historically there has been little interest in popcorn yet they grow many different strains of popcorn. They revere the small kerneled popcorn as a premium type for polenta, &c. The common F1 hybrid pops bred for kettle corn uses are flavorless by design, so you need to find older open pollinated types to try. For people interested in growing Amish Butter, Uprising Seeds carries our improved version, as well as our Roy’s Calais Flint.

    With respect to pickling lime, I have a strong preference for the flavor and texture it imparts the corn. When we prepare it, the whole house is fragrant. The use of slack lime is undoubtedly ancient. The early Central Americans, including the Olmec and Zapotec, operated limekilns. There is a practical side for me as well. As a farmer who wants to encourage the inclusion of hominy on the table, pickling lime is easy, safe and accessible, as well as toothsome. We sell the corn at market and add the lime at the time of purchase as a courtesy. I could not do this using any other alkalizing agent. With our restaurant accounts, I provide bags of Mrs. Wages pickling lime at cost. Chefs find it easier when health inspectors see the commercial package, rather than seeking an explanation for the white powder in the corn kernels. We have always used two tablespoons per pound of corn kernels, water to cover generously, never bring it to a boil per Diana Kennedy’s instructions, and let the mix cool overnight before washing the kernels. Because slack lime is less caustic than sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, time is an essential element in the nixtamalization process.

    I have made hominy with food grade lye, but I am not so keen on the flavor. It is much faster than the slack lime process, I will grant you that. As a result, I have never bothered to experiment with different forms of wood lye. Part of the problem is that we are in an oak savannah and oak is not such a good form of ash or smoke for flavor. It tends to be acrid and unappetizing. I have tried curing olives using lye drawn from wood ash and it was a disappointment, so I never got around to trying it with corn. Alder is the preferred wood for smoking food in the Pacific Northwest. As it happens, I have dozens of cords of oak and not a stick or alder. For hominy, I would be inclined towards a more neutral wood ash such as young willow or poplar, perhaps alder. I suspect the wood for ash was carefully chosen, only shoots without heartwood were used, and it was burned for that use. The Hopi bread piki is still prepared using ash from new willow shoots, rather than ash from the hearth.

    Someday, I may try some more experiments inspired by your work, though I know I can sell much more corn for hominy by making it as easy and safe as possible. That is the limitation we face as commercial farmers.

    Anthony Boutard
    Ayers Creek Farm

    Liked by 1 person

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