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bimbojones

Making Fresh Masa

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Big batch for a dinner party tomorrow: 18 hour soak, a bit less water, and went a bit longer with the grinding than before. I'm also letting the masa sit in the fridge overnight for the first time, so that I can make the tortillas fresh tomorrow just before dinner (and after work). I should let it come to room temp before pressing and cooking the tortillas, yes?

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Oh: the answer is, indeed, Yes.

Just back from Tucson, where I cajoled a local tortilleria to part with an entire bag of corn. A 50 pound bag:

CORN!.jpg

Bought some Ziplok bags, loaded up the carry-ons, and now the whole sack is at home less a few kernels from one burst bag. (Insert smuggling jokes here.)

So, way back uptopic, esperanza wrote:

And I have a question: what are the dark yellow flecks in your masa and in that tortilla? The flecks look like pieces of very coarsely ground corn. I've never seen that kind of fleck in any tortillas in Mexico, or even in the USA.

Now that I have this batch, I can answer this definitively. The corn that I have been using included what's known as the tip cap, the pointy part of the kernel. Most of these kernels do not have those dark tip caps; instead, they seem to have been broken off.

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I'm a Texan recently removed to Rome, and I'm feeling an increasing need for several masa based dishes. Looking at this thread and elsewhere, it seems to me that the choke-point here will be the grinding. I'm pretty sure I can't get a Mexican corn grinder, but I do have access to a general-purpose (meat) grinder. There was some brief discussion above, but it didn't look to me like anyone had actually tried this. Any help?

Andrew

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'm afraid that it doesn't work at all. The worm in a meat grinder depends on the elasticity and flexibility of muscle, which nixtamal doesn't have. In addition, the nixtamal needs to be repeatedly ground down with a crushing, not cutting, action.

Break out your metate!

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I have been making fresh masa for tortillas at home in Melbourne, Australia, for a few weeks now and can post some pictures if there is still any interest given the length of this thread.

Although we do not have many Mexican grocers here, I have sourced both yellow and white dried field corn: the former from an African supplier at our local market, and the later from the pet food store.

I am using slaked lime sourced from a Thai grocer (similar to that referred to in the excellent blog in the previous post).

I have been using Alton Brown's nixtamalisation technique which seems pretty standard. Having read the previous post I will try and refine it and post the results.

Grinding, of course, is the biggest challenge. I agree that Alton Brown's suggested use of a food processor for tortilla masa is laughable. My solution is a hand operated Messershmidt steel cone grinder. Grinding with the hand crank was hard work so I motorised the unit using a 1/3 hp motor with a pulley wheel and belt that slows it to about 125 rpm. It is necessary to firmly push the corn down into the grinder but with the motor going this is easy work. The results are splendid. The grinder also works very well for dosa and idli batter.

The resulting tortillas have wonderful flavour that beat, hands-down, packaged factory tortillas and even tortillas made freshly from masa harina.

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I should also note, in response to some previous posts, that Rick Bayless is adamant that neither the nixtamalising corn or the finished product should be refrigerated at any stage and certainly not frozen. He says that fresh masa kept at room temperature, as it should be, perishes within 12 hours. Therefore I start the process 25 - 36 hours before I want tortillas: 24 hours for nixtamalisation and 1 - 12 hour sitting time for the masa. Bayless is also adamant that tortillas can be made a few hours in advance and then reheated (using a steamer and teatowl). However I find that they are best used straight away after they have been cooked and allowed to sit to "steam" briefly whilst wrapped in a tea towel.

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Agree with your last point, Shaun, about aging, steaming, etc.

And: pet store! What a great idea!

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One more post whilst I am on a roll ...

As well as torillas, I have successfully made excellent tostaditas using my fresh masa. I was mindful of Bayless's warning that home made tortillas generally do not deep fry well because they are too thick and just soak up all the oil. In this limited sense, so he says, factory tortillas are better suited to the purpose. With full size tortillas I have found this to be true.

After some experimentation I found that by using smaller quantities of mases (10g instead of the 40g I use for a full size torilla) I get an 8cm disk that comes out of the tortilla press thinner than a full size tortilla and deep fries beautifully, bubbling and puffing up in the middle. They can be done in advance, sprinkled with powdered sea salt and reheated in the oven without losing their crispiness. They make great tostaditas or corn chips.

A little labor-intensive, but worth the effort if you are really trying to impress.

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A note about tostadas... my dad is a master tostada maker... it is a serious art in the Highlands of Jalisco where the small plate epitome is a tostada of pickled pork feet & skin.

The secret to making tostadas from hand made tortillas is to peel a thin layer of "skin"... typically you are working with day old tortillas... you let them soak in salted water and this will release a thin layer of skin on the surface which you peel by hand then find a clean place to dry the peeled tortillas in the sun. It is a multi day process.

This is not just a more laborious way of making a thinner tortilla... the resulting texture is fantastic & superior to just making thinner tortillas or buying factory made. This procedure is also used for making superior taquitos or flautas (which are also a specialty in that region)

Those of you with access to a Mexican grocer can save alot of time & effort by asking for Tortillas Raspadas... I can even get them here in Hawaii!

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Chris, where did you get your original dried corn and cal?

I'm in NYC - does anyone have recommendations for sources?

Rancho Gordo, did you ever your get heirloom varieties available for mail order sale?

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I use Mrs. Wages pickling lime (click), but for the life of me cannot find the corn anywhere online or elsewhere. Thus I recruited my wife and two young children into a life of muledom on our last trip to Tucson. Details here.

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Rancho Gordo, did you ever your get heirloom varieties available for mail order sale?

We're importing heirloom corn for tortilla production and I've considered offering it but I'm really concerned that people will confuse it with the prepared hominy and just try and cook it. We also grow a variety originally form Jalisco, here in California.

Do you think there's a consumer market for it?

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Do you think there's a consumer market for it?

Seriously, I'm totally unqualified to judge that.

However if there were some way of measuring the people who own the Ultra Pride+, the Nixtamatic and mano y metates, I'd suggest multiplying those figures by 5%, 100% and 20% respectively. That might give a general idea of the market... :smile:

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Given that I forced my wife and children to carry 50 lbs of corn in their luggage from Tucson, I'm probably not qualified to judge, either. However, I know of several people (including me) who would regularly buy it if available.

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FYI... if you have a little extra masa that you don't want to freeze... make sure you make Tejuino (soured masa beverage) or something else of you inspiration.. there are quite a few very interesting savory indigenious made with soured masa... that of course are still seen as backward in mainstream Mexico... but will probably be on the menus at Izote in a few decades :laugh: (beat the trend people!)

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Just got 25 more pounds from Tucson -- thank you, my dear wife -- and have been on a tortilla binge. As noted elsewhere, a wetter, thinner round of dough will, indeed, make a puffy tortilla one out of five or ten. Tough to handle that very wet dough, however....

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I live in Tucson so it's easy for me to get prepared masa just a few blocks from my home. But, being a food nerd, that is not enough. I can also buy nixtamal at the corner grocery, so of course I did.

In a test batch using equipment at hand , 1 pass through the KA coarse meat grinder plate, 1 pass with KA finer meat grinder plate, 1 pass through Rosle food mill second finest disc (2mm), and 1 final pass through the Rosle food mill finest disc (1mm) yields PERFECT tortilla masa, no extra water needed. That being said, it'll take you 3 days to get 3 lbs of nixtamal through that last pass.  (I gave up after two tortillas worth, but oh my they were good!)

SO -

I'm thinking about one of the hand mills, but am wondering if they really grind fine enough for proper tortillas.

Of course, I could have a local tortilleria grind my own nixtamal, but that's no fun, plus can't be done when the mood strikes at odd hours...

Thoughts on the Estrella, Corona, and Victoria grinders?  (Trying to not allow myself to buy a nixtamatic... no no no....)

Thanks!

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Well, OK a revivial if you will? I have been through all this (upstream) in my head for a good long while. I really want to just make some masa from Nixtamal and good tortillas. Thing is other than the promise of a hand mill (that typically don't do wet well) there's nothing that works better than say a metate, and even they aren't really "good" new until they are broken in for a bunch (1k) uses.

 

So we have the Nixatamatic. Do the search you will see what I am talking about. Rancho Gordo has one that they brought back and like it and a few others in the states that are into this whole thing.

 

So just saying, long story short. I was finally able to import a Nixtamatic. Got mine today. The unit cost was about 300 US the shipping was about 200 US (ouch), basically 505USD with shipping, but that's just the way it is.

 

Cool thing is it only took from Wednesday to Thursday for it to get to me from Mexico to my house in PA. Unpacked and fired it up today. Haven't made any masa with it yet but going to give it a go in the next couple weeks once I figure out what/best dent or flint corn to try, get the cal and soak some corn.

 

I assume that I can freeze fresh nixtamal and masa without too much degradation (let me know?). Comments welcome. If you have a solid start recipe for the corn soak and then post grind masa (add water, words on feel texture) that would be awesome. I know that I will need to adjust grind/pull tops from the kernals as required for tortilla/empenada/tamale etc to get coarsness right. Any help from the hand made community would be great.

 

I would be willing to work out a group buy if folks are interested. I don't really want to make any money of this - seriously. I just know that the hand crank food mill thing doesn't work so much. The hand cranks aren't really good for wet corn/nixtamal. Ight seem strange but the company never responds to emails. I foung a firm in Mexico that will single unit ship for now but I think I could work a quantity buy. None speak english, the shipping can get strange due to customs and the fact that you become an importer per se. Easier to reduce costs with a group purchase is all I'm saying.

 

So that's the promise - I'm really not looking to sell anything. I have no personal interest in making anything ($) other than giving back to this site if it helps. I would just want to recoup expenses.

 

If there are 20 folks that want one let me know. I'll let you know what the figures look like.

 

If things work out, maybe move this thread to a group buy, etc. And if it doesn't - still going to poke you folks for tips on masa  texture for tortilla/empanada/tamale.

 

Ray


Edited by rbenash (log)

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Hi rbenash!
 

I assume that I can freeze fresh nixtamal and masa without too much degradation (let me know?). Comments welcome.


I believe that assumption is incorrect if you plan to make tortillas. I have never had any success freezing fresh nixtamal or masa and then using it for tortillas, with a vacuum sealer and deep freeze. I know it's sold frozen at Mexican markets in the US southwest, but it's my sense that it's for tamales, not tortillas. YMMV.
 

If you have a solid start recipe for the corn soak and then post grind masa (add water, words on feel texture) that would be awesome.

 

For tortillas, I follow Diana Kennedy's model roughly: two rounded tablespoons of pickling lime/cal added to the corn and cold water in a large stock pot, brought to ~160-170F (bubbles on surface, she says), then covered to sit for 18-24 hours. I rinse very well then grind to a Play Doh consistency: a tiny bit firmer than a sugar cookie dough but not as stiff as a fresh pasta dough. I've found that you want it as wet as you can without making it tacky or sticky, which will make your tortilla pressing a real PITA. 

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Ahh - thanks Chris. I have a couple of Kennedy's books coming so looks like I should be able to figure out basic recipe and your notes on consistancy should be quite helpful.

Was wondering about the freezing thing for fresh nixtamal and masa from other posts on the net. Your comments bring me back to my original reservations that freezing either is probably not a good thing. Better to make up a pound or so of nixtamal/masa and make up into whaterver use as required. Start over with the next batch and don't depend on freezing anything. I have a semi commercial chamber and external bag sealer so always wanting to leverage those  if it works :-)


Edited by rbenash (log)

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At this point, for me freezing would have few benefits, and fresh has many. Indeed, I usually make too many tortillas given that they are remarkably inexpensive: if you can get access to large (50 pound) bags of corn, which typically cost less than a buck a pound in AZ, then the product costs are quite low. While the time/effort costs aren't minor, they involve a lot of unattended time, and if you get good at the process and do a bit of planning ahead it's pretty easy to make a 1-2 dozen batch as needed. 

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Thanks for the tips! What kind of corn are you typically using? Dent, Flint, white or yellow??

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Gotcha - thanks! My bad/laziness for not just looking upthread a bit :blush:


Edited by rbenash (log)

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