Pozole and Homemade Hominy Recipes

Learn how to make pozole and homemade hominy recipes, includes suggestions for pozole chiles, making homemade hominy and an authentic Mexican recipe for pozole soup.
By Burley Packwood
September/October 1982
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Onions . . . cabbage, and lime juice are all but indispensable pozole condiments.
PHOTO: BURLEY PACKWOOD


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Learn how to make pozole and homemade hominy recipes that are authentic Mexican food, including Pozole, a hearty Mexican pork-and-hominy soup and a recipe for homemade hominy. 

Here's a pork-and-hominy favorite from Mexico that might be the most gut-satisfying, gizzard-tickling, stick-to-your-ribs soup you and your family have ever eaten on a chilly autumn day.

Hominy is made by boiling soaked corn in a hydrated lime solution to loosen the hulls.

Ask ten random norteamericanos what pozole (pronounced poh-soh-lay) is, and you may very well get ten blank stares in response when it comes to pozole and homemade hominy recipes. And that's an unfortunate state of affairs, because this hearty Mexican pork-and-hominy soup is one of the best tasting, most satisfying, and economical concoctions ever to be ladled into a bowl.

Folks down Guadalajara way, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, will swear that their cooks prepare the only true pozole, while many señores and señoras from nearby Michoacan (who have their own cooking methods) will tell you that their region's version is the authentic one. The truth is that pozole — like most hearty soups and stews — can be made in a number of ways . . . varying with such factors as personal taste and what's in the larder on a given day. In fact, it seems that almost every pozole chef has his or her own pet recipe. I learned mine (which, of course, I believe is the best going) from a lady named Conchita, and it's peasant-style all the way.

POZOLE RECIPE

To prepare it, you'll need the following ingredients:
2 pounds of fresh boneless pork
2 pounds of pork neck bones (for stock)
2 tablespoons of salt (or enough to suit your taste)
2 cans (15-ounce) of white or yellow hominy, drained 2 tablespoons of powdered pasilla chile (or California chile or ordinary chile powder . . . see the information on chiles at the end of this article.)
 

If you prefer to prepare your own hominy (it's easy to make and will taste a whole lot better than the store-bought kind), the sidebar that accompanies this article will tell you how to produce the amount needed to whip up a batch of pozole. And if you really want to "go native", try substituting a pig's head for the neck bones when preparing your stock. Olé .

Start your soup by placing the stock meat and the boneless pork in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and covering them with water. Then add the salt, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it — uncovered — for about an hour . . . or until the neck (or head) meat separates easily from the bones and the chunk of pork is tender. At that point, you can remove the kettle from the heat and skim the grease off the broth. (If you'd like to remove the fat completely, you can simply refrigerate the stock overnight, then skim it.)

When the bones are cool enough to handle, pick the meat from them and cut the remaining pork into serving-sized pieces. Discard the fat and bones, and return the meat to the pot with the stock. Then add the hominy and chile, and simmer the soup — covered — for 2 to 3 hours. (The longer you cook it, the better it'll get!)

While the spicy treat is simmering, prepare shredded raw cabbage, chopped onion, chopped radishes (these are optional), and fresh lime halves or quarters as condiments, placing them on the table in individual serving bowls.

Once you're satisfied that the soup is ready, bring the kettle to the table and ladle out your pozole directly from the pot. (If you happened to use a pig's head for the stock, chop up the ears and stir them into your pork-and-hominy pottage . . . giving it that extra touch of authenticity!)

Dig down deep to serve portions thick with pork and hominy, but fill the bowls only half to two-thirds full . . . because there's lots more to come. Now, you see, each diner can doctor his or her serving by heaping the raw onion, cabbage, and radish on top . . . and then squeezing lime juice over everything. The cutup vegetables are traditional accompaniments for true pozole, but the lime juice is absolutely mandatory. If you omit it, you'll be serving a different dish entirely!


THE HOW-TO OF THIS HOMEMADE HOMINY RECIPE

I visit Mexico fairly frequently, and when I return, I always bring back a few kilos of local pozole corn to use when making my own hominy. (I also take the precaution of roasting the already dried corn for 30 minutes, at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, to eliminate weevils.)

Of course, you don't have to go to Mexico to get corn that's appropriate for hominy. You can use dent, flint, or a hybrid field corn with a high-protein and low-starch content. Just make certain before you start the process that the kernels of whatever corn variety you choose are hard and bone dry.

To begin, soak about 2 cups of dried whole-kernel corn in water overnight. Then drain the grain, place it in a 6- or 8-quart stainless steel pot, cover it with water, and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of hydrated lime . . . the kind that can be purchased in hardware or lumber stores. (I prefer lime to lye for soaking off corn hulls, though the latter substance can be used . . . at a ratio of 4 level tablespoons for every 2 gallons of water. However, remember that both materials are caustics and should be mixed only in stainless steel, glass, or unchipped enamelware containers.)

After stirring the solution thoroughly with a wooden spoon, boil the corn for about 30 minutes, or until the hulls begin to loosen, adding water to the pot if needed. (NOTE: When using either a lime or a lye solution, remember that the caustic steam can actually "burn" you just as badly as can the chemicals in their liquid or solid form.) Then remove it from the heat, cover it, and allow the grain to soak for another 30 minutes. This completes the softening process and saves energy that would be wasted by continued boiling.

The final step is to drain the cooked hominy in a colander and thoroughly rinse the kernels with cold water. After the water has been running over the corn for a few minutes, shuck off the hulls by rubbing handfuls of hominy between your palms. (I find that this isn't really much of a task, since the cooking has already done most of the work.)

Once you're through, you'll have a batch of fresh hominy to use in your authentic, delicious pozole.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: See MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 46, page 72 for information on cooking with dried corn to produce other Mexican delicacies. To order back MOTHER EARTH NEWS issues, turn to page 52.] 


HOT SECRETS ABOUT CHILE

Trying to identify the various types of powdered chile can be as confusing as U.S. foreign policy. In fact, I once precipitated a small-scale family crisis in a Mexican food store when I tried to purchase some pasilla chile. The 10-year-old clerk pointed to one barrel, his 11-year-old brother to a second, and their father — the store's owner — to a third. The funny thing is, each could have been correct. There simply is no universally agreed upon nomenclature for chiles.

The wise shopper, therefore, chooses powdered chile by taste and smell. Place your finger in the spice and sample it, then sniff. If your sinuses clear, your vision becomes fuzzy, and your scalp begins to sweat, that particular variety may be more than you can handle! As a rule, gringos who are unfamiliar with very hot foods should avoid serrano and jalapeño chiles. I enjoy (and recommend) the full-bodied pasilla, New Mexico, and California chiles . . . but let discretion be your guide!


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