While samp is another name for hominy, it also denotes a regional take on the dish. If hominy is associated with the South, then samp is associated with New England. Surprisingly enough, both names originate from the Algonquin language. Just how “nixtamalization” is a Spanish interpretation of a Nahuatl word, “samp” and “hominy” are English interpretations of Algonquin words.
This recipe comes from Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey, originally published in the New York Times.
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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 →
This is what James Beard had to say about this recipe:
I adore this combination of hominy, chilies, and sour cream, and serve it with barbecued or broiled meats.
You may or may not know this, but barbecuing was another Indian culinary tradition that was later adopted by American colonists and settlers. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise these two dishes pair well! Continue reading →
Blue corn flour tortillas.
On May 7, 2014, Vice News published the piece, “You’re Eating Fake Tortillas, and Diana Kennedy Is Pissed About It.” A world-renowned authority on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy offers a familiar polemic–food today just isn’t as flavorful as it used to be. Ingredients are becoming more and more standardized everyday, and varieties of vegetables are becoming less and less. It’s the fast food, industrial world we live in. Countless varieties of fruits and vegetable become one or two available in your local grocery story, to the point at which “cows” become “cow,” “bananas” become “banana.” Continue reading →
Replica pots made for and used in this experiment. (Cat for scale?)
For my dissertation, I’ve done some extensive research on the subject of hominy. I’ve read numerous historical accounts, I’ve collected recipes and videos and recipes, and I’ve sampled any and all things hominy that money can buy. But the most rewarding experience I’ve had so far is making hominy using replica ceramic vessels based on those recovered from Moundville (A.D. 1120-1650, a Mississippian civic-ceremonial center, located in west-central Alabama). Continue reading →
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 →
Hominy stew with bitter green and sausage.
This is a recipe my husband and I devised. The idea was to construct a flavor profile that tasted like the South–not the deep-fried South we’re all familiar with, but the deep woods South. The ingredients are similar to those native to the area–bitter greens, onions and garlic (similar to wild garlic and ramps), mushrooms, and of course, hominy. The first pot we made of this stew was huge, and fed us for about a week!
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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 →
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 →
Posole (or pozole) is a traditional American Southwest and Mexican stew made with whole kernel hominy. After soaking dried maize kernels in an alkaline solution overnight, the kernels are rinsed and rubbed until the pericarp (hull) is removed. In order to simply rub away the hulls, you have to soak the kernels in a pretty strong alkaline solution–if it’s not strong enough, the hulls will not rub off, but if it’s too strong, you’ll lose the germ in the process as well–that’s where a great deal of the nutrition lies. This recipe, from Bon Appetit, calls for a can of white hominy. Juanita’s Mexican-style Hominy works well, and as always, you can also make your own! Continue reading →