Saturday night, November 21, 2009. Leah’s gone for a week. I’m home alone. We’ve had rain and there’s not much that can be done outside as wet as things are. I put pinto beans on to boil after sorting through them to remove deformed and damaged beans, rocks and debris. The beans were grown in our spring garden.
I shelled ten ears of white corn, also grown in our spring garden and added it to a large stainless steel pot containing 4 quarts of water and 5 tablespoons of lime. I skimmed off the kernals and debris that floated to the top with a slotted spoon and I’m waiting for the water to return to a boil. I’ll cut off the flame when the water boils and allow the corn to soak overnight. This process is known as nixtamalization and has been practiced for centuries on the North American continent, certainly long before any white man stepped foot here. Nixtamalization does more than soften the grain; it changes the flavor of the final product and also makes the grain more nutritious. Eaten with a legume, you get the whole array of necessary amino acids (you don’t if your corn is dry ground without being cooked and soaked in lime water).
Tomorrow, I hope to thorougly rinse the corn and grind it in a hand-cranked mill. I then will add a little water to the wet-ground corn and use the masa to make tortillas. This is only the second time I have done the whole process from start to finish.
The value of the tortillas I’ll end up with is hardly worth the effort, measured in dollars and cents. The value of knowing how to do this may be priceless someday.
Perhaps sooner than you think.
Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I think the tortillas taste better, done this way.