In our kitchen at Pinche Guero we embraced a saying, “Sin maiz, no hay pais”, “Without corn, there is no country”. This reminds us not only of the importance of corn to all the regions of Mexican cuisine, but as well, the importance to the history of Mexico’s culture, and to countless dinner tables the “tortilla” has shared with so many families, and their stories and traditions.
Nixtamalization (nix-ta-ma-li-za-tion) is the ancient, process of steeping corn kernels with an alkaline ingredient. Some can argue that this was founded by chance. Somehow the ash from the fire, that the corn was cooking on, found its way into to the pot during the process. This chemical reaction would have possibly made the ground corn easier to work with once it was processed. The Nixtamalization process softens the corn, imparts calcium and activates the essential amino acids and vitamin B3 found naturally in each kernel. Making the corn a super food (that means it’s good for you). Pretty incredible stuff.
“Sin maiz, no hay pais”, “Without corn, there is no country”
Another big player in the game needed to achieve the best possible favor of the finished masa, is using the correct process to grind the nixtamalized corn into the proper textured masa. A Matate is a type of tool used for processing grains and seeds, they are traditionally made from large pieces of stone or volcanic rock. The specific angles of the metate body allow for a proficient method of turning grains into flour, by using another smaller stone and pushing the grains against the matate by hand. This ancient method of graining corn into what we know as masa has dated back thousands of years. Now days, you can find options on the market that will help to achieve a finished product very close to using such an iconic tool in the kitchen.