About Hominy and Nixtamalization
Daniel Delaney talks about hominy and nixtamalization and gives a pozole recipe. The mistake he makes though is the one I made of associating hominy only with Southern and Mexican cooking.
It turns out that making hominy is something that Native people throughout N. America (examples, Chippewa, Iroquois, Cherokee…) did/do — not nixtamalizing corn (which increases the nutritional value of the corn and makes the niacin in the corn available to us), for those tribes that used the grain as a staple, would have been disastrous.
There are a few different methods of making hominy using “field” or “flint” corn.
Here the derelictepistle shows us how to make hominy using the wood ash (lye) method. [I’ve read that the wood ash actually gives a mix of a larger percentage of potassium hydroxide to sodium hydroxide. The lye you buy in the store will be pure sodium hydroxide.]
In this video, Culinary Institute of America Chef Instructor Iliana de la Vega demonstrates the traditional Mexican method of nixtamalization (using lime or calcium oxide), making masa for corn tortillas.
Chef Iliana mentions that the calcium oxide becomes calcium hydroxide as it mixes with the water – so a caustic substance, similar to the lye.
Here’s Howard Kimewon on the Fond du Lac Chippewa reservation in Minnesota talking about making Hominy Soup (Banagaziiganaboke). He uses dried sweet corn that he grows himself and wood ash to make his hominy.
Howard soaks his corn in a solution of hardwood ashes and cold water for two or three days. He stirs it periodically. Then he dries the treated corn slowly so it doesn’t shrivel up. Howard says that the benefit of preprocessing the corn in the wood ash solution is that the cooking time in the lye solution is lessened (so three hours cooking time for the “preprocessed” corn versus six or seven hours cooking time for unprocessed corn).
Apparently, you can also make hominy with other alkali solutions. I found a tutorial on making hominy with baking soda. The author notes that processing the corn takes longer (you soak the corn overnight in baking soda and water and then simmer for four to sixteen hours in the solution). The advantage the author writes is that baking soda is less caustic than lye so there is little risk if you don’t rinse your hominy properly.