Nosferatus Need Nixtamal

I love chips. Anyone who knows me, knows I have an insatiable hunger for them. I can eat a whole bag without blinking an eye. Of course, afterwards I feel like crap but that has never seemed to stop me. On my current diet, I am only aloud to eat blue corn. Last week I ate two whole bags of blue corn chips. Immediately my dandruff, a symptom of candidiasis, returned. Most of the food I eat is unprocessed. I decided that if I should continue to eat blue corn chips, I should have to make them myself.

Sasha bought a cast iron tortilla press the other day for $20. The next time I was at the health food store I bought some organic blue cornmeal. I borrowed the press and begun the process of making tortillas.

No matter the consistency of the dough, or harina, the tortillas would crumble in the pan. After hours of experimentation I gave up and began to search the net for a solution. Of course, I failed to notice that tortillas are not made from corn meal, but corn flour. In fact, there are several distinct kinds of ground up corn; cornmeal, corn flour, corn starch, masa harina, blue cornmeal, atole (roasted blue cornmeal, and harinilla (blue corn flour) also called harina azul. Each one is the result of a different kind of process, and each has it’s own individual uses.

I found that many sites say that corn flour and/or masa harina are best for making tortillas. What most of these sites do not mention are the differences between corn flour and masa harina or the blue corn version, harinilla. Corn flour is simply ground up dried corn. Masa Harina is ground up nixtamal.

Nixtamal (also called hominy in the states) is an Aztec word that can be translated to “corn softened in wood ashes.” It is a combination of two other Aztec words; “nextli” which means “ashes” and “Tamalli” which means “unformed corn dough.” Nixtamal is made by soaking corn in an alkaline solution such as lime water or lye. This causes the outter hull to separate from the grain, making it much easier to grind.

It has many other benefits than that. The process of nixtamalization makes the vitamins in the corn, such as niacin, available to humans. When corn was introduced to other countries, the process of nixtamalization did not go with it. This caused outbreaks of diseases such as pellagra among people who ate corn as a staple. There is a cool theory that the myth of vampires followed the corn-induced pellagra outbreaks.

It seems to me that any corn that has not gone through the process of nixtamalization is not really food. Before I make corn chips, I’ll need to make my own nixtamal. At least now I know the whole process that goes into making corn tortillas…

Current Questions:

1. What are safe, efficient and non-toxic ways of making limewater/lye from natural sources?

2. What are the nutritional differences between corn species?

3. Will my addiction to corn chips ever go away?

4. Have I turned into a vampire?

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6 Comments on “Nosferatus Need Nixtamal”

  1. Hey- I’ve been reading all about corn too for a paper on Iroquois ethnobotany. They had about 50 ways to eat corn. Limewater is made with hardwood ashes. Sift out the charcoal and soak the fine grey ash in water, then strain or let settle and pour off. I do not know if soaking in hot water or even boiling is better/faster. I also do not know how long it should be soaked or how much ash is needed.
    When tasted the water should have a “bite”. I don’t think it is very dangerous to handle because it is not very strong, not like concentrated Red Devil Lye you can buy at the grocery store. I’ve touched ash lye water when tanning hides and it made my hands feel funny but it didn’t do much. You can also use this water to make soap, so you may want to follow these instuctions for making the lye and maybe make some soap after doing the corn thing with the same water:Instructions for soap making from ash.
    My book says corn was boiled for only 15-30 minutes in the lye solution to loosen to husks. Then it was put in a basket and sloshed up and down in fresh water to rinse off the lye and separate the husks. I do not think they necessarily waited for it to dry before pounding. It probably wasn’t that wet because it takes way longer than 15 minutes for flint corn to get soft, more like 3 hours. Plus maybe it dried further from the pounding action. They ran it through sifters to get a fine meal. Flour I’m not sure about, maybe that is where stones come in.
    Over here the indians used big wood burned mortars and heavy wooden pestles to grind the corn:
    Picture of corn mortar. But I believe I read once that the process of grinding the corn with rocks was nutritionally important in mexico. It added minerals. The Iroquois didn’t really make fine flour or torillas that I have read, just meal.
    As far as corn species I’m sure there are differences, but what they are I don’t know. I don’t really know what this blue corn is you are talking about or why you are allowed to eat it for your diet?? I should think any “alternative” corn would be okay, just as long as it isn’t sweet corn. The Iroquois grew so many varieties: sweet corn, not so sweet corn, corn to be eaten on the cob and the hard corn dried and used to make hominy, blue, red, green, white, yellow, back, purple, and pink corn, long ears and short ears, early ripening and late ripening, pop corn…
    -I’m going to try to order corn to make traditional corn soup from a guy whose website is down right now. It’s called! It’s an Iroquois heirloom seed project a few hours from me. You can see his same products here: Corn Flour, Hominy. But I’m going to try and order direct. I believe this hominy corn has been limed already. Though if you can find any that hasn’t I’d be interested in trying the liming process as well.
    -As far as your addiction to corn chips, do you still like them without salt? Do you like all chips or is corn your favorite? I made some flax seed chips that I thought were pretty good with guacamole once. But hey, what isn’t good with guacamole? Hmm other alternative chips…you could experiment with deep frying different wild roots. I can see that being really good. But hey what isn’t good deep fried? You could try making baked chips of flours, nuts, seeds and spices. Acornthins anyone?
    -Are you a vampire? Totally. They forgot to mention the 5th D: Dandruff.

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