How is Hominy Made?

By Anthony Boutard
Updated on February 16, 2023
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by Adobestock/Marco

How is hominy made? Learn the steps to make hominy corn from scratch using corn hominy and the tortilleria nixtamal process.

Alkaline Steeping of Corn

Tortillas and tamales are made from whole kernels of dry grain corn that have been steeped in a hot alkaline solution, left to soak in the solution as it cools, and then washed the next day. The process is called nixtamalization, and the treated kernels are called nixtamal. The Tortilleria Nixtamal in New York is named for this process. The nixtamal is ground wet to make masa, the wet flour used to make tamales and tortillas. Corn does not contain gluten, the family of proteins that create the strong dough used to make yeast breads. Nonetheless, the steeping partially gelatinizes the starches and the wet grinding breaks the corn down into very fine particles, which adhere to one another through sur- face tension. The masa makes a weak, paste-like dough that, with skilled hands, can be molded into tortillas. These are cooked rapidly on a very hot clay surface called a comal. Whole nixtamal is also cooked until the kernels are tender, at which point it is once again called maíz, or corn. Masa and the whole treated kernels are also available in a dry form.

In Mexico and Central America, slaked or hydrated lime, or cal in Spanish, is used to make the alkaline solution. This form of lime is made from limestone (calcium carbonate) that is put into a lime kiln and baked at 1520 degrees F (825 degrees C). The result is quicklime (calcium oxide), which is then exposed to water, or slaked, to form calcium hydroxide or cal. Slaked lime is ground into a dry powder. Archeologists have unearthed limekilns in the settlements of both the Olmec and the Maya, early Central American civilizations. The lime was also used for mortar and plaster.

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