This year, after moving from Austin, Texas to the Seattle area, I came upon some beautiful corn at my new local Farmer’s Market. I assumed it was decorative, so I asked the vendor. He said sure, but it was also Field Corn (which is called other names as well) that one could use to make masa for tamales. The only issue was that he had just a few ears left. Fortunately, the next week (and final week of the market for 2019) he brought a whole lot more and gave me a basic method for making masa that he and his family use. I didn’t know at that time that I would be writing about this, so I promise that next year I’ll find out the vendor’s name and info and share it. He was awesome and genuinely seemed happy that I would make masa, and not just use the corn for decor. #samammishfarmersmarket
I know you’re here for instructions, and they’re coming right up, but I want to make a few things known for those less familiar with field corn. It is unlike regular corn in that the texture of the kernel contents is much more mealy and dense, and less juicy. One thing I learned in the process of making masa from mine, was that once the kernels were cooked and the skins removed from the kernels, I had made hominy. This means that at a certain point during this process, you can stop and save some of your batch for Pozole or any other dish you like with hominy.
I’d also like to note that I seasoned the boiling water that I cooked my corn and cobs in, and then also used it to thin my mixture when grinding it to a paste. This was my addition to the process, and may or may not be important to your process.
On to the important stuff!
- ten or more ears of field corn
- calcium hydroxide (for this method)
- seasonings (optional)
- food processor or blender
- boiling pots, knives, stovetop, bowls
- Prepare a large pot with salted (add other seasonings as desired, such as chili powder, cumin, garlic, Mexican oregano, lime, lemon, and orange juice), boiled water. Cut cobs in half and add to the pot. You may need to do more than one pot for all of the corn, but you can save the water from the first pot for subsequent pots.
- Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for up to an hour. More if you can control your simmer well and keep it very low.
- Remove corn cobs to a container where it can drain and cool, saving water for use later.
- Once the cobs are cool enough to handle (I actually refrigerated mine overnight), cut the kernels off.
- Add calcium hydroxide to the saved water. This begins the process known as “nixtamalization” which is the origin of the word “tamale”, wherein the skins of the kernels are sloughed and made easy to rinse off. You gotta love science. Also, be aware that calcium hydroxide is dangerous if not handled properly. Please follow all instructions on your packaging.
- Add the corn kernels into the saved water, topping off to cover all of the kernels.
- Simmer for an hour or two.
- Rinse the corn kernels in a deep enough colander that allows for rinse water to flow over the top, removing the unwanted membrane from the inner portion (hominy!).
- Grind in a food processor or blender, adding tap or water from boiling to achieve a paste texture.
- Store in fridge or freezer for future use in tamales, tortillas, or as a thickener in soup or chili. Season if desired.