Homemade Hominy

close up, mexican posole, hulls removed, 3

Whole kernel, nixtamalized hominy.

Let us be clear–this post is about making your own nixtamalized hominy, your own boiled maize kernels that have been soaked in an alkaline substrate, which will not only make processing them easier, but will also enhance their flavor. If you simply want to soak your dried corn in water then grind/cook it, this is not the post for you. You may argue that this is hominy just the same, but I’m taking a historical perspective–for centuries, hominy was nixtamalized, maize and alkaline treatment married in a prolific foodway. This may not be the hominy you know, but this is the hominy you will soon learn to make if you keep reading. Continue reading

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Buying Specialty Corns

Like most fruits and vegetables, there are hundreds of varieties of corn, each with its own peculiarities and nuances. However, I’ll bet that unlike apples or tomatoes, your local grocery store doesn’t carry several varieties. In fact, for most varieties of corn, you’ll have to grow it if you want to eat it.

What follows is not a list of all corns known, but instead specific varieties I’ve been able to source on the Internet. (Most generalized hominy or heirlooms corns, such as “white hominy corn” or “yellow cornmeal” are not included.) Some are from seed companies, where a pound may run $25 or more. Some, though, are more economical. Most of those listed under cornmeal are already ground, and to date, none indicate they were nixtamalized. Continue reading

Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Nixtamalization But Didn’t Know to Ask

A number of New World food items, including maize, were adopted so quickly in Europe that they appeared in paintings by the mid-sixteenth century.

Vertumnus, a mid-sixteenth-century painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Note the use of a maize cob for an ear. Maize, like many New World food items, was rapidly assimilated into the culinary traditions of Europe, becoming common place within only a few decades after Columbus’s first trip.

Essential to hominy is the process of nixtamalization (pronounced NEESH-ta-mal-i-za-shun). It’s a tricky word, and honestly, it’s a tricky process. For this reason, there’s a lot of misinformation about what nixtamalization is and exactly what it does. Continue reading

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): Continue reading

What Hominy Is and What Hominy Isn’t

cooked kernels versus dried, 5Border

On the left, three flint maize kernels soaked overnight in a solution made from woodash lye and water; on the right, dried flint maize.

Hominy is a varied term with a varied past. I’ve already touched on this a bit, but the subject deserved much more attention. It can be ground or whole, lyed or cooked in woodash, and can be from various maize varieties. So, what are these different definitions of hominy and where do they come from? Continue reading

How to Make Your Own Woodash Lye

Four quarts of homemade lye made from hickory and water oak ash (separately).

Four quarts of homemade lye made from hickory and water oak ash (separately).

A note of caution: lye is caustic, and though the first batch of woodash lye you make will not be as strong as commercial lye, it should still be respected and handled with extreme care. Properly label your materials, wear rubber gloves when handling, and always keep out of the reach of children and your pets! And if you get any one your skin, run that area under cold water until it no longer feels slippery (that slippery feeling is the lye corroding your skin!).

One of the most important ingredients for making traditional hominy is woodash lye. While both commercial lye and pickling lime can be used to remove the hulls and to nixtamalize your kernels, I think they have a subtle yet different flavor from woodash lye. I think maize that has been soaked then cooked in the latter tastes woody–that should come as no real surprise. Using either pickling lime or commercial, food grade lye creates a distinct alkaline taste, but lacks that subtle woody flavor. Continue reading