Corn Masa for Tortillas

When we lived in Tijuana, we observed many Mexican traditions like The Day of the Dead, which just happened a few days ago.  We have lost many of our traditions since we moved to the United States, but luckily, we have kept the ones that have to do with food. For example, we always get together to make tamales for Christmas, we always cut Rosca de Reyes in January; we eat seafood every Wednesday and Friday during Lent; and my mom makes a bread pudding called Capirotada for Good Friday. We continue to eat tortillas as part of our main diet.

I try to maintain as many of our Mexican traditions as possible. While it is not easy living outside of Mexico, it is very important for me because I believe traditions are what have kept my family together...well, traditions and good food. 

Although I can buy very good tortillas at the market, once in a while I like to make my own tortillas but I either make the masa from a corn flour or buy it already made from the local tortilleria or tortilla factory. Making corn masa for tortillas from scratch is an ancient art. It requires several steps and, for better results, a couple of days of preparation. A few weeks ago, I tried my hands in this art form for the first time and I can't even describe how amazingly flavorful the results were!

The first step is to make nixtamal:

Start with dried corn. Rinse and clean the dried corn to take out any chaffs from the corn husks and any rotten grains. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of powdered lime in 1/2 cup of water for every 1 pound of corn. In a non reactive pot, cook the corn over a slow fire with the  dissolved lime and 4 cups of water for every 1 pound of corn. Warm it up slowly until it comes to a low boil. Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon. To know when the corn is ready, take a grain and rub it with your fingers, if it peels easily, it is ready. Then remove the pot from the fire, cover and allow to rest overnight in a cool place on the counter.

The next day, drain the liquid (called nejayote) and rinse the corn one or two times until the water comes out clean. Slightly rub the corn between your fingers to get rid of some of the loose peeling. The corn is now called nixtamal, it  is ready to be ground and become masa.

The second step is to make masa:
You can grind the nixtamal in the ancient Metate, or in a hand-mill or you can use a modern food processor. This time I used the hand-mill but it was a lot of work. I think a food processor can do the job just as well and it'll be easier. Place the nixtamal in the mill a little bit at a time and grind two or three times until it's all ground and soft. After the first pass add water as needed, a teaspoon at a time. This has now become masa and after a little kneading, it will be ready for tortillas.

The third step is to make tortillas:
Lay a sheet of plastic wrap (a cut up plastic bag works well) over base of tortilla press, draping it over the sides. Rub a little bit of water on your hands, grab a lump of masa the size of a golf ball. Place the ball of masa on the plastic. Lay another sheet of plastic wrap over the masa, draping it over the sides, then close the press to flatten masa into a tortilla. Hold the pressed tortilla with the plastic on both sides in one hand. Peel away the top plastic from the tortilla (not the tortilla from the plastic). Flip it over into your other hand, and peel away the other piece of plastic. Gently place the tortilla on a hot skillet or griddle. 

If your tortillas are not perfect circles, don't worry; they will still taste wonderful. Cook the tortilla for a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from the griddle and wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm. Repeat the process until all the masa has been used. 

Enjoy your tortillas with your favorite Mexican food. 

You can make the masa and freeze it for future use.

This seems like a lot of work but I guarantee you, the tortillas taste so great, it'll be worth it!

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Wow! It's amazing how you took the time to make tortillas from scratch! They must taste delicious! And did I tell you that I love your blog? Keep up the good work.
Yo tambien soy de México, nacida en el DF y mi mamá de Sinaloa y mi papá del Estado de México. Qué bueno que sigas muy orgullosa de las tradiciones mexicanas! Vas a hacer ponche de frutas ahora en Navidad? Yo lo hago todos los años y a mi esposo que es Hondureño le encanta!