Amazon was my best friend to find the organic whole corn. I wish I could have bought less than 25 pounds, but now I have plenty to make tortillas many more times. I also found the hand-cranked corn grinder there, and the tortilla press. If you live in a place like my hometown of Dallas, you can find a tortilla press at your local store.
I found cal, also known as lime (or calcium hydroxide) at my nearest Latino market here in Maryland, just outside of DC. It was only $1.79. And I already had my old greasy comal and tortillero at home.
Nixtamal is the softened, calcium rich corn you end up with the next day. Thousands of years ago people in Mesoamerica, including the Aztecs and the Mayans, figured out the health benefits of nixtamalization, such as how the interaction of natural limestone with corn produced a food that made them feel better. Nixtamal is rich in nutrients, like calcium and niacin.
The nixtamal is then ground into masa, which you form and flatten to make your tortillas.
My whole family was salivating over the comforting delicious smell of the corn cooking. It smells like fresh masa immediately. And the next day when we tasted our first real made-from-scratch tortillas, we were in heaven. This is definitely a fun family project, and it makes us appreciate our culture more, and how our pre-columbian ancestors left us a process and a food not only full of nutrients, but also culture and flavor.
- 2 cups whole dried corn
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tbs cal
Bring the ingredients to a boiling simmer for 30 minutes. Then let the corn soak overnight (at least 8 hours) at room temperature. The next morning, rinse the corn thoroughly and remove as many husks as possible with your hands. Place the washed nixtamal (softened corn) in the grinder and grind. The masa might be coarse and grainy, depending on your grinder setting (I set it at finest possible setting) but you can add water with your hands until you can knead and form the masa. Pinch small pieces of masa off and form small balls. Place the small balls of masa in the tortilla press that has been lined with a gallon-sized plastic bag and press down to form the flat tortilla. Cook the tortillas on a comal or griddle, and your tortillas are done! Makes about 15 tortillas.