Exploring Hominy: Origins, Recipes, and Tips
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.
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
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
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:
Carb Diva Revised Recipe
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.
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.
© 2020 Linda Lum