Yesterday the three of us went camping at Thompson’s Lake. A fine day!
It is a high density campground. If you’re louder than your neighbors, you’ll probably have fun (provided you don’t get kicked out for being too loud, too late). If you are quieter than your neighbors, you may notice them a little too much. We had couples arguing (next door), parents yelling at kids nonstop (across the way) and a very loud singer (we could follow the words even though she was a dozen campsites distant). We made the best of it until we’d had enough. Even so, we got to make camp, enjoy a fire, cook and eat some food, drink a couple of beers, walk to the water, nap in the sun and read. I’ll call it a win, but hope the roulette wheel lands on a different number for our next visit.
Today I made my first scratch made corn tortilla! Just the one (but more tomorrow). I bought cal from the Mexican grocery (also known as slaked lime, a mysterious white powder that becomes less mysterious with a little reading) and had on hand organic dried yellow field corn. The corn was briefly cooked in the water and cal slurry and is now soaking on the counter.
Once soaked and washed, the corn is called nixtamal. The dough made from adding a little water to the ground nixtamal is called masa. Whether the masa is suitable for tortillas or tamales depends on how you cook, soak and grind the corn. The magic, though, is in the nixtamalization. Google it if you are unfamiliar with the process. Amazing stuff.
Making tortillas from dried corn requires time and patience. I generally have plenty, but not this once. I was instructed to let the corn soak in the water and cal slurry overnight, but I washed an individual kernel after 15 minutes of soaking and ground it in my krok hin. Not the typical tool for grinding corn for masa, but it worked. I added one or two drops of water, hand formed the world’s smaller tortilla (smaller than a penny!) and cooked it up. Not good. I had last ground star anise in the krok hin and the residue darkened the dough and gave it an odd taste.
I washed my krok hin. After 30 minutes of soaking I made the second one kernel tortilla. Wonderful! After 45 minutes I did it again. Just having fun, you know. This time I pressed the pea sized ball of dough in my new tortilla press. So cute!
Time for a bigger test. After an hour of soaking I repeated the process with a quarter cup of kernels. I washed, dried and ground the corn, added less than a teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. The dough was to rest for 30 minutes. It got five minutes while I under heated the cast iron griddle. No patience required for testing small batches! I pressed the ball of dough into a tortilla and cooked it up. I was to let the tortilla steam in a towel for 15 minutes to finish cooking and soften. It got five. Despite my numerous shortcuts, the tortilla impressed me (for what that is worth–my experience set is limited). Big gains in flavors and texture. Definitely something to be said for doing it all at home.
I doubt I’ve had many fresh tortillas made with corn nixtamalized at home. If I have, they were most likely made by my friend Michelle. She’s very talented and modest. She wouldn’t have said anything unless asked (and I didn’t know to ask). I still remember, though, one magic meal she made for us. She had been cooking for two days. A real stunner. Haven’t had the likes of it since.
Tortillas numbers two through infinity are bound to be even better. I’ll let the corn soak overnight. I’ll grind it in my mill for a smoother texture (the hand ground corn was really amazing, but it would be a pain to grind a pound or more this way). I’ll let the dough rest for 30 minutes. I’ll let the griddle get hot. Looking forward to it.
Time to go. Hope you had a great weekend!