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Making Nixtamal from Indian Corn  RSS feed

 
Renate Howard
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Indian corn isn't supposed to be GMO. You can pick it up at farmer's markets or the grocery store and save the seeds to plant next spring. Once the ears have dried (husks start drying out) you can pick them (or let them dry more on the stalk) and remove the kernels and make nixtamal, which is the original way to eat corn and gets rid of the phytates and makes it much more nutritious. I like to freeze the nixtamal and add it to winter stews. It's very good in beef/bean soups, or even chicken soup with some hot peppers, onions, rice, and tomatoes.

This is a pretty good blog entry about it, with lots of pictures: http://kitchengardenfarm.com/kitchen-garden-journal/73-cook/280-Making-Nixtamal-and-Masa-at-Home
 
Adam Klaus
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I call it posole, so forgive me that, but anyways, its is delicious. I will freeze up bags of it once finished to use all winter. It is really interesting how the kernals take on a rubbery texture once nixtamalized. I can literally taste the increase in nutrition.

You can use hardwood ash for the alkaline component of the recipe. Sandor Katz has the exact ratios in his Wild Fermentation book. It works well, IME.

Deep frying the posole is a favorite in my household. You drop the whole kernals of wet posole into a pot of hot oil (best done outside unless your kitchen floor needs an oiling). When the kernals rise to the surface, all the water has cooked out, and they are ready to eat. Sprinkle with salt, and enjoy. The origional cornnuts. Unbelievably tasty!
 
Renate Howard
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I always wondered how they make corn nuts! Cool! Thanks! I'll be trying it tomorrow unless I get bogged down with too much other stuff.
 
Adam Klaus
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the cornnuts are downright addictively delicious! I use safflower oil if that helps any.
 
Leila Rich
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Renate Haeckler wrote:... save the seeds to plant next spring.

Off topic, but corn is apparently really susceptible to inbreeding depession and you need at least a couple of hundred plants to maintain strong genetics.
The seed should be fine next season, and probably much longer, but unless you're contiously adding seed with different genetics, seed saved from a small crop of corn will become quite pathetic quite quickly.
I've given up growing corn for various reasons, but being put off by the 200 plants thing is one

Apologies for thread derailment; I might start a fun 'inbreeding depression: your experiences' thread!
 
Renate Howard
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Leila, Very interesting, thank you! If I'm growing corn from several ears bought at different locations, would that prevent inbreeding problems? And my thought is, for future generations, to have a rating scale of time of ripening, size of ears, disease-resistance, ease of removing kernels, and beauty, and keep more or fewer kernels from each ear to plant next year depending on how well they score, so I'm not just planting kernels from one ear.

I made two small batches of nixtamal from the 3 ears I've harvested so far. (it yielded 3 cups). 1/2 cup makes a good portion for breakfast, and it's delicious cooked for another 30 min then served with butter and salt. I'm eating the whole kernels, not grinding them, which seems to me like extra unnecessary work.

I've read about fermenting posole, the soup made from the nixtamal. It sounds intriguing and I'm going to look for more info. about that!

It seems to me to be very permaculture to grow the grain crop that is most native to the area in which you live, and the one that was used by indigenous people in your area. Most of us will be wanting a starch for our diet, better to grow it than to buy it, and corn is one that is really easy to harvest and store, compared to the need to thresh wheat, barley, oats, etc.

At this serving size, one ear will provide breakfast for 2 people, so the 50 or so ears I got would feed us about one meal a week for a year. Add in that they were grown on "free" land - under the young fruit trees, among the fall squash and pumpkins, fertilized by pig manure from last winter, and it's a pretty good deal.
 
Leila Rich
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Renate Haeckler wrote:If I'm growing corn from several ears bought at different locations, would that prevent inbreeding problems? And my thought is, for future generations, to have a rating scale of time of ripening, size of ears, disease-resistance, ease of removing kernels, and beauty, and keep more or fewer kernels from each ear to plant next year depending on how well they score, so I'm not just planting kernels from one ear.

From what I've read, tha answer's "no": seed-saving experts like Carol Deppe and Suzanne Ashworth are pretty clearthat you need seed from at least 200 separate plants to maintain a strong line, any less and the genetics will weaken quite rapidly.
They're mostly talking about seed-saving corn from a 'closed loop' though.
 
Jordan Lowery
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We grow a couple hundred lbs of painted mountain corn each year. From there we turn it into nixtamal for tortillas, tamales, sopes and more.

You need to grow a few hundred plants to save seed.

It's very easy to make

10 grams lime for every 1000 grams corn. Simmer for about 30-60 minutes until the pericap has partially dissolved. Let rest for 12 hours, rinse lightly and grind.

From here do what you want. Some water or broth may need to be added.

I just had some sopes topped with fried veggies and homemade chorizo for lunch.

I highly recommend painted mountain corn, it's fast, high yielding, and requires very little care. I dry farm it here in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Where after may there is no rain until October.
 
Renate Howard
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So then you'd really have to save seed from the 200 best plants each year and grow more than that in order to have any sort of natural selection, is that right? To further complicate things, can't each kernel on an ear be pollinated from a different plant? Like, they're all pollinated separately, right? Seems like that should bring the number down. I wonder if it's ever been actually studied - how large, for example were the plots of corn the native people here grew? Because I had the impression they made small clearings to plant the 3 sisters in lots of locations, so my impression always was that there were not a whole lot of corn plants in any one plot until machinery (the plow) and industrialization, etc. came along. Or is that more evidence of a far-ranging trade route from Canada to Central America in which seeds were constantly being imported?

I'm not trying to doubt your veracity, it's just got me interested.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Well considering that the Indians needed to grow enough for thier village or tribe numbers of plants were much beyond the minimum number.

Much is the case at our farm, a years supply is much more than 200 plants. We take the best cobs and only take the center kernels out for planting and mix them together. This way we don't have to plant a "seed crop" and a "food crop". The kernels that are not picked fir planting are the ones we eat. This way we end up with seed made from much more than 200 plants, ensuring a large genetic diversity, and diverse it is! Every color in the rainbow and kernels with many colors in one show it.

We also give seed out every spring for people to grow and need to know we have high diversity.

And so you know before we ( Europeans) came to north America there was no three sisters. We made that up. They employed polyculture practices usually with much more than 3 types of plants. Including things like chia and sunflower as well.

Posole is soup make from fully nixtamalized and then cooked corn and pork with chili. in America we Call the fully cooked corn hominy.

 
Renate Howard
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I keep hearing good things about the painted mountain corn. I guess I should try it, in case we don't have another abnormally rainy year next year!

How big an area is your corn plot? Is it monoculture or do you mix in other crops? I'm pretty happy with how many squash I'm getting from my little 16 X 32 foot area, tho I could have grown more corn - something ate a lot of the seed before or as it sprouted, and I planted it well-spaced to begin with.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Polyculture of course. Grown with herbs, greens, grains, veggies, fruits. As Paul would say polyculture 20+.

I can't verify plot size as it's not in a "plot"
Overall through the three acres we farm on there might be a acre of corn if I combined it all to one area. As with most polycultures the corn is dotted all over, usually planted in three stalks per hole and maybe 2-6 ft apart in all directions. This way the mature plants don't shade out my other crops that grow in between the plants. Of course there are open "glades" between some stands of corn where other crops are in denser plantings.
 
Renate Howard
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I thought it would be fun to add pictures.

The corn, just harvested, still not 100% dried out.


After my rating system which included things like how well the husk covered the corn, how pretty, how insect resistant which determined how many rows of seeds I kept to dry on the husk for planting next year:


The rest went into the pot!


To that I added a rounded teaspoon of Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime and filled it half full of water. I boiled it for 45 minutes and then let it sit overnight. In the morning it was a yellow cloudy mess. I poured off as much of the liquid as I could without dumping out the corn then added fresh water and rubbed the kernels until the skins came off. After several more rinses to get all the skins out of there it looks like this:


That whole washing process took less than 5 minutes.

I like it as hominy for breakfast - cooked an additional 45 minutes until nicely soft and then served with butter and salt it's delicious! But mostly I froze this for soups and stews. It's my secret ingredient that adds a flavor people just can't figure out, LOL!
 
Jordan Lowery
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Beautiful, if your going to try grinding it for masa don't wash and rub all the pericap off, this is essential for a proper masa. I drain, fill with water and swish the bowl in a circle then drain, no rubbing. You may do this 2-3x.

Good luck saving seed!
 
Adam Klaus
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Jordan Lowery wrote:Beautiful, if your going to try grinding it for masa don't wash and rub all the pericap off, this is essential for a proper masa. I drain, fill with water and swish the bowl in a circle then drain, no rubbing. You may do this 2-3x.


thanks for the tip. what do you use to grind the masa?
 
Celia Revel
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Can you make cornbread from this?
 
Renate Howard
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I've had trouble converting recipes from dry cornmeal to moist ground masa, maybe if you dry the corn after nixtmalizing it then grind it, it would work better - otherwise you need to play around with the added fluids in the recipe so it's not too wet or dry once it bakes.
 
Celia Revel
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Thanks Renate. I'm going to experiment tonight. Let you know how it turns out.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Cornbread is made from just ground corn, no nixtamal.

Same with polenta
 
Renate Howard
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I have made polenta from nixtamalized corn and it was delicious! You can't follow a recipe for dry polenta as far as how much fluids to add but if you do the type where you keep adding a little more until it's the right texture it can turn out delicious!

Last night for a party we had polenta casserole, which I guess is based on a recipe posted many years ago in some magazine but variations are all over the internet. It's about 4 cups of cooked hominy (cook 2 cups of the nixtamalized corn in water until it's completely soft and you'll get around 4 cups of hominy) with sour cream (2 cups), juice of 1 lime, 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar, salt and pepper to taste, a can of chopped green chilies, and I added sliced black olives. It was delicious. Some variations use salsa verde instead of the green chilies from a can. You want that tangy flavor.
 
kadence blevins
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ok I am in love with this... so want to try it!

one thing I got lost on... what *exactly* do I need to put in with the corn and water?
 
Renate Howard
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You need either wood ash with the lye in it like they use for making soap, or (much easier) a source of food-grade lime like Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime, which I got from Amazon.com. For the corn from 5 large ears I put in a rounded teaspoon, which was more than enough. And plenty of water, more than enough to cover.

Mrs. Wages is food grade calcium hydroxide. It used to come in a cannister and cost around $4.50 but now it's in those annoying bags with the twist cap, same price, tho. 16 oz will be enough to last a very very long time.
 
David Williams
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Leila Rich wrote:
Off topic, but corn is apparently really susceptible to inbreeding depession and you need at least a couple of hundred plants to maintain strong genetics.
The seed should be fine next season, and probably much longer, but unless you're contiously adding seed with different genetics, seed saved from a small crop of corn will become quite pathetic quite quickly.
I've given up growing corn for various reasons, but being put off by the 200 plants thing is one!


I've done some reading on GMO corn , and while 97% of corn pollens fall within 300 meters , the remaining 3% can travel several hundred kilometers
Bees can service plants in a 6km radius, and am sure some birds do similar ....... The 200 plants number they refer to isn't on one plot, rather a "serviced pollen area"
If other people are growing relatives of corn/maize , fertilization will happen , building or destroying the gene pool
 
Leila Rich
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David Williams wrote:The 200 plants number they refer to isn't on one plot, rather a "serviced pollen area"
If other people are growing relatives of corn/maize , fertilization will happen , building or destroying the gene pool

Yeah, I didn't even go into wind-blown cross-pollination! We don't have GMOs here, but most people in town grow hybrid 'supersweet' corn
 
Celia Revel
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Back to you on the nixtamal cornbread. I used a modified version of sally fallon's Nourishing Traditions corn bread, using the masa instead of the cornmeal. I came out tasty, but it tasted more like a corn tortilla and less like cornbread. It was dense, cake like, and a bit chewy. It went well with hot soup. My partner said he would like it if it were the topping of say, a tamale pie. I wouldn't make it again, but it was an alternate way to use up the extra I had in the frig.
 
scott romack
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We have made the masa but how do you make corn nuts?
We tried to dehydrate them but they turned back into rocks!

Do you fry them (that's what the wife thinks)?

Thanks,
 
carlo biagi
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you can make "corn nuts" by using flour corn, also called dent corn, and letting the corn mature on the cob until husk, and or plant is dried. Then remove the corn kernels (I just use a knife and my fingers) and oil and heat a frying pan to high-medium heat and add a layer of the kernels and stir occasionally and in approximately 3-5 minutes the kernels will be done. You will know because some of them will have puffed up, and a few will pop, and when you eat them, they are fairly easy to crunch. I add garlic salt. mmm. yum. I used a specific variety from a seed catalog, and they called it "parched corn". google parched corn for more info.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Great thread! I have a couple ignorant questions;

Can you store masa?

Has anyone tried canning the nixtawhatevef, or is freezing best?
 
Jordan Lowery
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Making fresh is best, frozen works.

For corn nuts that taste like real corn nuts you need to nixtamal first then just dry the outside kernels and then fry. Soaking and frying results in hard flavorless corn.
 
mick mclaughlin
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So do you just keep dried corn on hand, it make it as needed?
 
Jordan Lowery
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Yes I store corn I grow. Painted mountain corn. A few hundred lbs a year for me and friends. Lime stores forever. I spend 30 minutes at night then let it sit and cool overnight and in the morning a quick rinse and grind gives fresh tortillas for breakfast. Simple fresh and easy.
 
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Thanks! I will give them both a try!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Millions of people suffer needlessly from pellagra, a deficiency disease brought on by a chronic lack of niacin in the diet. The disease is most common in areas where corn makes up a substantial part of the diet but the practice of nixtamalization is not part of the culture. Corn contains the nutrients, but not in an absorbable form.Probably the best way for sufferers to be persuaded to adopt the practice would be for them to be shown how bread can be made from the improved flour. In it's raw form, corn flour doesn't glue together well when baked. The natives of Central America, who eat properly processed corn, very seldom develop pellagra.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellagra

Wikipedia snippets -- Pellagra can be common in people who obtain most of their food energy from maize ("corn" in North American English), notably rural South America, where maize is a staple food. If maize is not nixtamalized, it is a poor source of tryptophan, as well as niacin. Nixtamalization corrects the niacin deficiency, and is a common practice in Native American cultures that grow corn. ------ Pellagra is common in Africa, Indonesia, North Korea, and China. In affluent societies, a majority of patients with clinical pellagra are poor, homeless, alcohol-dependent, or psychiatric patients who refuse food. ------ The traditional food preparation method of maize ("corn"), nixtamalization, by native New World cultivators who had domesticated corn required treatment of the grain with lime, an alkali. The lime treatment has been shown to make niacin nutritionally available and reduce the chance of developing pellagra. When maize cultivation was adopted worldwide, this preparation method was not accepted because the benefit was not understood. The original cultivators, often heavily dependent on maize, did not suffer from pellagra; it became common only when maize became a staple that was eaten without the traditional treatment.

 
Ann Torrence
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You can also dry the corn after nixtamalization and grind it later.
BTW, painted mountain corn is beautiful in the garden. Some photos from my first time growing a three sisters garden.
 
Jessica Gorton
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Does anyone know if you can nixtamalize cornmeal after it has already been ground and stored? I make a lot of polenta for my family, and would like to incorporate the benefits of this process - via wood ash, since we have that in abundance. I would assume the process would be similar to what is done with whole corn kernels, but I don't want to, I don't know, kill us all (I often have these irrational fears, but when dealing with lye, maybe not so irrational). I'm not quite ready to grow our own corn, though that's in the long-term plan, so I'd be buying already-ground coarse cornmeal from the health food store.

And if it is possible, what kind of ratio of wood ash to water to cornmeal would be appropriate? Would I soak the cornmeal overnight in the lye solution and then rinse? Any help is appreciated!
 
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