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Exploring Hominy: Origins, Recipes, and Tips

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Hominy is delicious and versatile!

Hominy is delicious and versatile!

Sin maíz, no hay país.

(Without corn, there is no country.)

— Ancient Mexican saying

First, a Brief Science Lesson

Have you ever made corn tortillas? If you have a sack of masa flour in your pantry, homemade tortillas can be at your fingertips in almost no time at all. But, don’t reach for cornmeal. It makes greats bread and muffins, but will never come together in a cohesive dough. Corn flour doesn’t contain gluten (that’s the protein “glue” of wheat that helps us make a sticky dough, and puffy fluffy bread). Masa flour doesn't contain gluten either, but it comes from corn that is transformed by a process called nixtamalization.

That sounds amazingly complex, doesn’t it? Anything that comes with a name that long must be a new invention, right? If we're talking of geologic time, nixtamalization was invented just moments ago, but the process of soaking maize in lime water was actually invented by the Mayans in 1500 B.C.

Nixtamalization (noun): a process for the preparation of maize, or other grain, in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, washed, and then hulled. This process is known to remove up to 97–100% of aflatoxins from mycotoxin-contaminated corn.

Let’s see if I can put this in layman terms. The cell walls of maize kernels are composed of cellulose (plant fiber) and the interior contains pectin (that’s the jelling agent that makes cooked fruits turn into jam). Soaking the kernels in alkaline water breaks down or relaxes the walls, releasing the pectin and making it available to bond with water molecules. Mixed with water the pectin become gummy and (thus) sticks together.

And Then, a History Lesson

Christopher Columbus “discovered” maize in the New World and took it back to Europe with him. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn or understand the science of processing that grain. He had only half of the recipe. As a result, the people living in Europe who grew maize and depended on it for their nourishment developed a disease—peeling skin that blistered when exposed to sunlight (which, believe it or not, promulgated the theory of vampires—pitiful subjects averse to sunlight). It was called pellagra (the Italian word for “sour skin").

It wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists discovered the problem. Maize contains vitamin B3 (niacin), an essential part of our daily diet, but we can’t absorb that vital nutrient unless the maize that we eat has been nixtamalized.

Freshly cooked (from dry) hominy

Freshly cooked (from dry) hominy

How to Cook Dried Hominy (Basic Recipe)

There is no question that canned hominy is easy to prepare; just grab a can opener and your work is (almost) done. But for all its convenience, canned hominy simply does not compare to the texture and amazing corny flavor of dried hominy cooked on the stovetop.

Cooking dried hominy is very much like cooking dried beans; rinse and sort (looking for rocks or debris), soak overnight, and then simmer in a pot with a lid.

Posole Verde With Chicken

Posole (pozole) is a rich Mexican soup, traditionally made with pork. This lightened version, posole verde with chicken is time-consuming but can be prepared in stages. Don't skimp on the roasting the hominy; it develops a toastiness that will give your posole another layer of flavor.

Some of you don't care for cilantro (and I totally understand), but if cilantro is something you like please make the cilantro purée. It will totally transform this posole and take it from great to outstanding!

Cajun hominy skillet

Cajun hominy skillet

Cajun Hominy Skillet

The Southern Lady Cooks start this hominy skillet with the holy trinity of Cajun cooking—onions, bell pepper, and celery. This dish is hearty and filling. I like to have sliced cucumbers and tomatoes on the side or serve it for breakfast with a poached egg.

Hominy au gratin

Hominy au gratin

Hominy Au Gratin

Here's another Southern classic, hominy au-gratin. Hominy and bacon are baked in a casserole dish with a creamy cheesy sauce, similar to macaroni and cheese. I'm not a huge fan of pimento (yes, I know it's a Southern thing and I'm a gal from the north), so I would substitute diced red bell pepper. I made a few other changes as well:

  • I used skim (non-fat) milk in place of full-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup of bacon bits were replaced with 2 strips of turkey bacon

It made a difference in the numbers. Here's a comparison:

 Original RecipeCarb Diva Revised Recipe

Calories

256.7

229

Total Fat

15.1 g

12.8 g

Cholesterol

43.7 mg

38.8 mg

Sodium

626.2 mg

431.8 mg

Vegan white chili

Vegan white chili

Vegan White Chili

This vegan white chili will make so many people happy. It's dairy-free, gluten-free, meatless (of course), and packed with plant-based protein and nutrients. Jess uses poblano and jalapeño peppers. To control the heat use a little or use a lot—it's your choice. I love the extra punch of flavor that comes from hominy in this chili.

Mexican black bean and hominy salad

Mexican black bean and hominy salad

Don't use this Weight Watchers Mexican black bean and hominy salad as just a salad. Let your imagination run wild. It's a great salsa. Use it to fill tacos. Stuff it in an enchilada. And if you want something more "filling" warm it and serve atop rice or use with cheese in an omelet.

Sources

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2020:

But Flourish, now that you know about it, would you eat it? I hope I've convinced you to give it a try.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 01, 2020:

I’ve never eaten hominy and I’ve sure never seen that $1000 word nixtamalized. Had to look that one up! I don’t think I’ve ever even seen hominy on a table or if I did I didn’t know it.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 30, 2020:

Thanks for checking, Linda!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 30, 2020:

Shauna, the Publix grocery stores have Goya (dry, near the bread crumbs? according to their website) and Juanita (canned, in the international foods aisle).

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 30, 2020:

Linda, thanks for these recipes. I'll give a few of them a try. I didn't know that hominy comes in white and yellow kernels. I've only seen the white ones.

I'll have to check my grocery store for dry hominy. I've never seen that either, but then again, I never looked!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 30, 2020:

Mary, I'll keep my fingers crossed that you can find it in Canada. I would look in the section where they offer dried beans and rices. Thanks for your comment.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 30, 2020:

I am not familiar with hominy so I am happy for the introduction. I will try this, especially mixing this in the salad.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 30, 2020:

Pamela, anything with cheese and bacon has to be a winner, right? I think the white chili looks pretty tasty too. Thanks always for stopping by.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 30, 2020:

Bill, you're a hoot, but that's one of the qualities that makes you so darned lovable. Enjoy the cool weather today. It won't last forever. It's the last day of June so I have to work on the quarterlies. No garden for this gal today.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 30, 2020:

Ann, it's odd (I think) the food items that are so common in one place and nonexistent in others. For example, here in the U.S. we do not have golden syrup, Heinz beans, Coleman's mustard, or Marmite. I'm glad you enjoyed the topic.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 30, 2020:

This was such an interesting article. I have had hominy quite a long time ago but I have never cooked with it. Those dishes look so tasty and I would like to try a couple of them Thanks for another educational article. Have a good week, Linda.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2020:

If it takes that long to explain it, I don't want it in my body. lol I crack myself up sometimes with my timely humor. :)

Cooler weather is to be adored, my friend. The garden is calling. Can you hear it?

Ann Carr from SW England on June 30, 2020:

I had heard of hominy but had no idea what it was. No I do!

I've never seen canned or dried hominy here though. I'll have a look now as often things are around that are easily missed if you're not aware. Delicious looking dishes.

Thanks for the education, Linda!

Ann