Homemade Nixtamal (Corn/Maize Masa)
makes about 550 grams of dough (masa)
- 2 litres of water
- 225 grams (about 1.5 cups) of maize
- 1 cup sifted fresh wood ash
- Rinse the corn well with cold water, then put it in a large, heavy (non aluminium) pot (it will expand by three or four while cooking).
- In another pot, combine the wood ash with the water and bring it to a simmer.
- Pour the strained ash-water over the corn passing the hot ash-water through a fine strainer, a dish towel or several layers of paper towels to remove the ash.
- Bring the corn to a simmer; the skin of the kernels will turn bright yellow from the alkali in the water. Simmer the corn until the skin begins to loosen from the kernels - this can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the corn.
- Remove from heat and cover the pot with a lid. Leave the corn sitting in the liquid for 8 hours or overnight; it will continue to soften.
- Drain the corn and rinse it in several changes of cold water to remove all traces of the cooking liquid. As you rinse the corn, rub it between your hands to remove the skin from the kernels. The more of the tough material removed, the smoother the masa.
- The cleaned kernels can be ground at this point to make a wet nixtamal to use immediately or freeze. The kernels may also be spread on a screen to dry and store for later use.
About wood ash
As soon as the fire cools down, the lye in the ashes starts absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and loosing potency. Getting the ashes into an airtight container as soon as they cool would retain the most potency.
For thousands of years, people have been nixtamalizing corn and eating it immediately after rinsing. Three to Five rinses with water is sufficient to thoroughly remove the lime/lye and residual skin. Hydroxides are highly attracted to water and only a little attracted to corn.