Masa Harina from Scratch
I used to make tamales using dried masa harina flour. Unfortunately, I was unable to find organic masa harina. Not wanting to use genetically modified corn, I was beginning to think I would need to give up tamales all together. Luckily I was able to find recipes for making masa harina from scratch. It is easy to make. Although it does require an overnight soak. I either grow my own corn or purchase from organic kernels from Azure Standard
2 pounds (about 6 cups) of dried organic corn. Azure Standard sells it.
2-3 Tablespoons lime – Not the citrus fruit, but pickling lime, which is a white powder. Pickling lime is Calcium Hydroxide. Sometimes just called “Cal” or
8 cups water (enough water to cover the corn and extra for it to absorb during the soak)
2 teaspoons salt
Recipe makes about 8-9 cups of fresh masa.
Rinse the dried corn to remove any chaff. There is lots of debris with my home grown corn. This is probably less of an issue with store bought corn.
Add the corn, water, and calcium hydroxide (lime) to a large non-corrosive pot. Stir a little. The lime should dissolve easily.
Bring the corn/water/lime mix to a boil slowly and then let boil 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Let sit overnight.
The point of this step is not only to hydrate the corn, but to induce a chemical change in the corn itself. The process of using a basic (as in alkaline or basic pH) solution to treat food is called nixtamalization.
Traditional methods of preparing grains and beans as food often involve elaborate processing methods such as fermentation. Fermentation, for instance, results in an increase in food value and often an elimination of toxic components. You can read more about how fermentation changes brown rice here.
In the case of corn, the lime (traditionally wood ash was used) will make the corn easier to grind up and increase the nutritional value and flavor of the corn. Corn that is not processed is deficient in niacin. It always amazes me that our ancient relatives had the knowledge of how to create food with optimal nutrition.
After the corn has been boiled and soaked, rinse it with water while rubbing the kernels to remove and coating or husk.
I divide the corn into two bowls in my sink. I fill the first with fresh water and then knead the corn through my fingers. While I am doing this I turn the water spigot to the second bowl. I drain off the water and floating debris in the first bowl and then move the spigot back to fill the first bowl with water. While it is filling I rub the corn in the second bowl and drain off the debris.
I repeat this over a dozen times or until the water is pretty well clear. I think it takes more effort with my homegrown kernels because they aren’t as well cleaned in the first place.
Once I’ve gotten them clean, or when I am tired of rinsing, I put about four cups (half the batch) of the corn in the Wide BlendTec Blender. I add about 1 teaspoon salt per blender batch and 2 to 5 tablespoons of water. Just add water to get the consistency you like. Some people use a food processor for this step. Traditionally it was done with a grinding stone.
The side photos show the finished masa. The bluer version in the blender with spatula used more blue kernels. The lower two pictures are masa made with mostly yellow corn.