First – my favorite moment this week, for which I am so grateful, amidst turmoil and our whole family being really sick:
Standing in the twilight drizzle, feeding the chickens with Ella, watching her gather weeds for them, and “read” them a story about bunnies.
I hope you’ll forgive me for mish-mashing a bunch of things together here – we’ve been very busy training new staff, planting, and then we all got really sick! So, these would have been several posts, but I’m just going to put them all together here.
Grain Cleaning 101:
For those of you who got grain shares with us in 2009, or anyone who grows their own grain, or gets it from a local farm, you have probably encountered some grains that still have hulls, and some weed seeds. We had particular trouble getting our oats clean last year, despite a lot of effort (remember Ben cleaning on Christmas Day?). We tried to explain to everyone how to use water to clean off the hulls and weed seeds, but in case we didn’t get you, here we go!
You can do a small or large batch of grains at a time – at home, I usually clean about 1/2 cup of oats at a time, to cook for breakfast, but at the bakery Ben has cleaned several quarts at a time. Just make sure you size your containers appropriately. In the photo, you see about 2 cups of oats in a quart mason jar, filled most of the way with water. Pour in your grain first, then fill with water. Right away you will see hulled grains and weed seeds floating at the top – pour them off, or skim them with a spoon or ladle. Then take a spoon (or your hand, if you’re working with larger quantities in a big bucket), and stir up the grains and water. Let them settle, and you’ll have more hulled grain and weed seeds on top. Pour or skim them off, and repeat at least three or four times, until there’s nothing more floating to the top when you stir. Voila – clean grain! If you’re going to cook it whole, go right ahead. If you’re going to mill it, or aren’t going to cook it right away, spread it out on a cookie sheet to dry (this takes 6-12 hours). Enjoy.
And now, something I’m really excited about – Nixtamal. Nixtamalization is the process of adding lime (alkaline, not the citrus fruit) to dent corn, to soften the skin and make it more digestible. Nixtamalization turns dent corn into hominy (also known as posole). I’ve been meaning to try and find a recipe for this, and then a CSA member mentioned that he had been making it from Wild Fermentation, which I had on my bookshelf at home! Sandor Ellis Katz rocks, as always. (Katz notes that whole nixtamalization is not a fermentation process, he includes it in his book because it’s a necessary first step in order to make a traditional fermented corn drink.) So, below is his recipe, straight from Wild Fermentation:
(to make about 4 cups of posole)
2 cups dent corn (whole, dried corn – not popcorn or sweet corn)
1/2 cup wood ash OR 2 tablespoons hydrated lime (also called calcium hydroxide – you can get it from pickling/canning suppliers or agricultural suppliers, just be sure it’s food grade! I used wood ashes from our woodstove – be sure if you use ashes that they aren’t from pressure-treated wood or plywood, and sift them first to remove large chunks.)
Soak the corn in double its volume of water for 12-24 hours.
Strain off the water, and transfer the soaked corn to a pressure cooker or other large cooking pot (Katz doesn’t mention Crock-Pots, but I think they would work well).
Add 8 cups of water to the pot, add lime or sifted wood ash. Bring to a boil, and pressure cook for 1 hour or boil for about 3 hours, stirring periodically. (Note to our CSA members: I found that our corn cooked in about 2 hours instead of 3.)
To test for doneness, rub a kernel of corn between your fingers to see if the skin is loose. If so, remove from heat; if not, continue cooking.
Rinse the corn, kneading and rubbing it to loosen and remove the skins. Rinse until the water is clear. You’ve made posole!
Now, you can cook with the posole, adding it to soups, stews, or chili, grind it into a dough for tortillas and tamales, or make some fun fermented things, like Katz does. We ate ours on the side with black beans and it was super delicious!
Ok, I’m off to bed for some rest and recovery – wishing you all blessings on your weekend, and a day of rest.