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Tortillas, Gorditas, and Sopes....Learn the simple and ancient process of nixtamalization

We’re going to take whole corn kernels and transform them into masa (aka hominy) through the process of nixtamalization. This is such a simple and ancient preparation and adds incredible depth and dimension to cooking at home.

There are just 4 ingredients. Corn, water salt and lime(pickling lime, aka calcium oxide).

This is so easy and delicious it’s a must learn for anyone who appreciates South and Central American foods. Masa(nixtamalized corn) is the base preparation for tortillas, tamales, gorditas, sopes, posole, atole and more.

I’ll be covering how to make masa and masa dough from whole corn and how to make tortillas, gorditas, and sopes from the base dough. Spoiler alert! Once you have real thing there is no going back…they are so much better than the industrial imitations found all over.

This recipe will make about 3 lbs or two quart of masa or about a two week supply. You can half this batch if you don’t want to keep some on hand in the freezer.

We’re going to boil 2 lbs of Nothstine Dent corn in 2 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of calcium oxide (sold commonly as “Pickling lime”) for 15 minutes and let stand overnight(12-24 hours).

Once the corn has sat in the calcium hydroxide overnight it can be poured into a colander and rinsed with cold water removing some of the soft outer layer of the corn. It’s that simple…you now have masa or hominy.

The corn has been softened and b vitamins(Niacin) made nutritionally available. It is now ready to use in a soup or stew(posole) or go into your food processor to be made into masa dough. Any masa kernels that you don’t turn right into dough can be stored in your freezer for several months ready to be made into another batch of dough or go straight into your soup or stew.

 

Making Masa Dough

Add 8 oz of masa kernels into your food processor, ½ tsp of salt and 1/4-1/3 cup water. Process for several minutes occasionally scraping the sides of your processor down to re-incorporate. You want to have just enough water to facilitate grinding so the dough becomes fairly smooth. Not enough water and it won’t grind…too much water and it will be too wet to press out and handle easily.

You can always add more masa berries(or some cornmeal) or water to adjust consistency but start easy on the water and only add more if necessary. You want a stiff smooth clay like dough. If it is to sticky to easily pick up and handle you need to add some more masa or a little cornmeal to get the stiff dough you’ll need. It will take 4-8 minutes to grind fully. Don’t over heat the dough in the processor. Rest as needed. Once your dough is made you are ready to pat out some gorditas, pinch a few sopes and press out your tortillas. If your dough is too sticky to handle put it back into your food processor and add a little cornmeal to stiffen until the dough is dry enough to be manageable and not too sticky.

Gorditas

Gorditas are the simplest shape to start with. Take about a 2 oz piece of masa dough roll into a ball and pat out going from hand to hand and press into a 3-4 inch disk and cook in a dry cast iron pan or pan fry in a touch of butter, or lard for 3 minutes a side on medium high heat.

Sopes

Sopes are basically gorditas that have an edge pinched up like a tiny pizza so it can be topped with beans, cheese, meats and veggies with out overflow. These can be cooked in a pan for 3-5 minutes and then finished in the oven under your broiler. 10 minutes total cooking time.

Perfect to make ahead and then heat and serve when ready!

Tortillas

Tortillas are a lot of fun and take a little practice to perfect. A six inch aluminum press costs about six bucks and works perfectly. Find these on amazon or at a mexican grocery store. Take a 1.5-2oz piece of dough and roll into a ball. Use a very thin plastic bag(produce bags from the grocery store work best) to make a 6×12 inch liner for the press that you will peel off the tortilla after pressing.

Place just off center in your press towards the hinged side of your press and press until the dough reaches the edge of the press or is at the desired thickness. If you want thinner tortillas just use less dough and vice versa. Cook in medium high dry cast iron pan for 3 minutes first side and 1.5 minutes on the second side.