Have you ever started a recipe not quite sure your skills and/or your patience would be up to the task? When I started making this tortilla masa last night, I was thinking the project could easily turn out to be a disaster. Actually, as I write this I’m thinking it may be a bit premature to declare a victory.
My molino arrived earlier in the week. You may recall that I had planned to make tortilla masa earlier, but then realized that I was not equipped to grind the corn. I ordered a molino – a corn grinder – from GourmetSleuth.com, hoping that it would do the trick. I’m still not entirely convinced that it is the appropriate device to grind corn for tortilla masa. My guide for this endeavor, Diana Kennedy’s From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients, characterizes the molino as something used to grind a dryish masa for certain types of tamales. I’m not making tamales. Anyway, I plunged in last night and hoped for the best.
The first few steps were easy enough. I weighed out two pounds of dried corn, picked it over, rinsed it, and then put it in a stainless steel pot and covered it with water. After the water came to a boil I added a little slaked lime (calcium oxide) and cooked the mixture for about 15 minutes. When the lime is added, the corn turns a deep golden color. The corn should be cooked just until the skins slide off easily. After about 12 minutes I tested a piece and found that I could peel the skin off, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it slid off easily. I let the corn cook another couple of minutes and then took it off the heat, since 15 minutes was the recommended cooking time and I feared I might overcook it. I then left the corn, which at this stage is called nixtamal, to soak overnight.
nixtamal that has soaked overnight
This morning I checked on the corn and found that the skins had not just loosened up, they had turned to slime. Removing them turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated. I started out rubbing the corn kernels with my fingertips under running water, but I had slippery kernels skittering off in all directions. I finally found a method that worked for me – I took a small handful at a time and rubbed them between the palms of my hands under running water. Doing this over the colander that held the rest of the corn prevented the escape of any wayward kernels. After the skins are rubbed off the corn is referred to as nixtamalizado and is ready for grinding.
Unfortunately, I do not have a work surface in my kitchen that I can clamp the molino to. There is not enough of an overhang on my counter, and my kitchen table is made of soft pine. Fortunately, I do have a suitable table in the basement. I cleared it off and cleaned it up, clamped the molino to it, and started grinding. I had been afraid that this stage might be tough-going, but it wasn’t bad. Of course, it’s possible I didn’t have the grinding plates as tight as they should have been! It took somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes to grind all the corn.
the molino with the nixtamalizado in the hopper and the finished tortilla masa in the dish
I plan to use some of the tortilla masa this evening to make Gorditas and will freeze the rest. Was the masa properly ground? Will the gorditas fall apart in the pan? Will they taste good? Was all this worth it? Stay tuned…