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

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Ode to Maize (1952), Pablo Neruda

Chilean, Pulitzer winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Pulitzer winning, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

While Pulitzer-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda is well-known internationally for his love poems, he also wrote many odes which were celebrations of ordinary things–an artichoke, salt, a large tuna in the market, his socks. Some of the odes are dedicated to important influences in his life, such as the poet Walt Whitman, or the act of aging. Continue reading

Warm Hominy Salad with Peas, Carrots, and Cilantro and Ecuadorian Hot Sauce (Jose Garces)

JoseGarcesTheLatinRoadHome

Jose Garces lists this as one of his favorite recipes. This is what he has to say:

When my mom makes this dish in the springtime, she uses fresh garbanzo and fava beans as well as the English peas. If you spy either or both of these at your local farm[er’s] market or Latin grocery, snap them up and add them to the mix: shucking, blanching, and peeling them is a bit of a hassle, but they are fine things (cosas finas), for sure. English peas are often available in supermarkets year-rough; note that when peas are in season, the pea pods tend to produce more per pod and the peas themselves are often larger, so you may not need to buy the full two pounds called for to end up with cups of shelled peas. Also, the size of the peas themselves will be larger when they’re in season. Canned hominy is stocked in [some] supermarkets.

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Long Island Country Samp (Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey)

WhiteEatingJamestownCropped

John White watercolor of an Algonquin man and woman eating a meal, titled, “Man and Woman Eating.”

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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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

Food for Thought: You’re Eating Fake Tortillas!…But, Why Don’t You Care?

homemade blue corn tortilla, mexican traditional food

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

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