Hominy is a base ingredient for various recipes such as posole and tamales. The process of making hominy dates back nearly 10,000 years in ancient Mesoamerican cultures. “Nixtamal” is dried treated maize, or hominy as we know it. The process is also referred to as nixtamalization. The traditional U.S. version involves soaking dried corn in lye-water traditionally derived from wood ash until the germ is removed. Mexican recipes describe a preparation process consisting primarily of cooking in lime-water (calcium hydroxide). In either case, the process removes the germ and the hard outer hull from the kernels. Nixtamalization changes the corn such that the body may absorb more of the nutrients. The process also changes the flavor of the corn.
Preparation Time: one hour in small increments
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Stainless steel pot or bucket, 3 gallon size – 2
Wooden ladle or stick
2’ x 2’ muslin cloth
Jute or other cord – 3 feet
Ingredients: (serves 8 – 10)
Corn, whole dried – 1 lbs (yields about 8 cups cooked)
Wood ash, hard wood ash works the best – 1 gallon (Use two gallons of ash if using soft woods)
Water – 1 gallon
Making Lye water
Pour the ash into the stainless steel kettle. Add the water and stir until the ash is completely saturated. Skim off all floating coals. Let the solution sit for about 8 hours, stirring several times throughout the process. When the lye water feels quite slippery and has a yellowish brown tint, pour the liquid slowly off the top into the other pot, being careful not to pour in any of the ash. Let the ash settle and pour off the water on the top a few more times. Now, tie the muslin colth securely around the lip in the pot leaving enough slack in the cloth for it to drape slightly into the pot. Slowly pour the ash onto the muslin and let strain for until the ash is no longer soupy. Finally, tie off the ash that remains in the cloth and suspend this over the kettle for 4-5 hours in order to allow the remaining water to drip out of the ash. The lye water is now ready to use.
Caution: Lye water is caustic. Though this recipe makes a fairly week solution. When the skin comes in contact with the solution, rinse the areas of skin well. Do not the lye water solution internally. Make sure to leach well the hominy made from lye water (described below).
Treating the corn
Add the corn to the lye water in the pot and bring the water to a boil. Take it off the heat and allow it to soak until the hull dissolves and the germ starts to release from the kernels. The soaking will take several hours depending on the lye water strength. When the hulls are dissolved and the germs are releasing the soaking process is complete. Strain the corn from the liquid, rinse the corn with fresh water and agitate for a minute or so. Strain the corn from the liquid again, add fresh water and agitate again. Continue this rinsing and agitation process until the rinse water is clear and most of the germ has released from the kernels. This may take 20 rinses or more. After the final rinse, add plenty of fresh water and allow the hominy to leach in the water for at least two hours. Test whether the lye solution is sufficiently rinsed and leached from the corn by taking a small bite from a kernel. The corn should not cause stinging to the tongue or mouth. If it does, replace the leaching water and continue leaching until there is no sting in the mouth.
Cooking the corn
Place the corn in a pot and cover the corn with 5-6 inches of water. Plenty of water is needed in the cooking to prevent the corn from burning as the starch releases and thickens. Slightly stir the corn occasionally to insure it is not burning or clumping. If more water is needed, it is best to add hot water. Cook the corn for about an hour or until tender. Pour off the cooking water and rinse the corn two or three times. The corn is now ready for use in food preparation.