When I first learned of Spreadwing, I was thrilled at the prospect of milking goats, making cheese and kraut, and pruning fruit trees. What truly sealed the deal, though, was the fact that they nixomalized and ground their own corn to make incredible homemade tortillas.
Certainly a lengthy process, but a simple and worthwhile one. Most of the time is completely passive, simply letting the corn simmer or soak, and the timing is flexible and forgiving. The most involved part of the process is grinding the masa, and forming and cooking the tortillas. Having the proper equipment makes a big difference. We use an Estrella mill and a tortilla press from Mexico, and cook them on a cast iron griddle. In a pinch, you can grind the masa in a food processor, or press out the tortillas between two stacking cast iron skillets.
Masa can also be used to make sopes, pupusas, tamales, and more! And if you don’t feel like grinding the masa, whole nixomal is great in soup or mote pillo.
Tortillas from [Chicken] Scratch
(Makes about 40 small tortillas, roughly 4″ diameter)
From Corn to Nixomal:
4 cups dry corn kernels
8 cups water, plus additional for soaking
2 1/2 tablespoons pickling lime (calcium hydroxide or “cal”) — some varieties of corn require more cal to dissolve the hull
1 teaspoon salt
Soak corn in water for 8 to 12 hours to stimulate the sprouting process. This is an optional step that increases the nutritional value of the corn. You can skip this step and add an extra 4 cups of water to the next step.
Drain off the water you soaked the corn in. Transfer corn to a 6 quart pot. Add 8 cups of water and the pickling lime and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, and then lower to a simmer. Simmer covered for 1 hour. (Some varieties of corn take more time). Let it sit at room temperature to cool for 4 to 12 hours.
Rinse and drain the corn to remove the pickling lime and the corn hulls. Rub the kernels between your hands to loosen the seed coat. Continue rinsing and draining until the rinse water is almost clear.
From Nixomal to Masa
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Grind the corn finely in the mill. You will end up with corn that is fluffy and moist. Mix in salt and water to make a dough/masa. Add up to 1/2 cup more of water to the masa if necessary. Keep in mind that the masa will continue to dry out over the next couple days, and it doesn’t seem to work well to add water just before using the masa on subsequent days.
NOTE: Some dishes use a slightly different masa dough. For tamales, for instance, leavening and fat are worked into the ground nixomal before the liquid is added.
From Masa to Tortillas
Preheat the griddle to a medium-low heat on the stove. Shape the masa into balls, roughly the size of golf balls. Then press the balls in the tortilla press lined with plastic. (A cut open plastic bag works great). Carefully remove the masa from the plastic and place on the griddle. Cook until you see the edge of the tortilla curl upwards, then flip over and cook the other side. Keep tortillas warm until ready to serve. Pack the leftover masa into a container with a lid and refrigerate. Masa is best used in the next 3 days or so, but will keep for up to about a week.
Variation: Put thin slices of a melty cheese on top of the tortilla after the first flip to make open faced quesadillas). Also great topped with kimchee!