Archive for October, 2007

100kg of Maize!

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

If we are looking at producing our own grains in this bio-region, maize (field corn) is obviously one of the best suited for our particular conditions. Kevin and I are starting an experimental crop of Indian Flint Corn this season, in hopes of starting ourselves down the path of producing our own grains.

In preparation for producing and processing our own maize, we thought it would be a good idea to start practicing with some bought maize. It was amazingly difficult to find a source of New Zealand whole kernel maize for human consumption. Finally, through a friend, we found a way to get hold of some 50kg sacks of maize for a reasonable price. It wasn’t easy, but now we finally have 100kg of whole-kernel maize (a yellow dent variety) here on the Farmlet. 100kg is a lot of maize! Still, since the price of grain seems to be going nowhere but up these days, we figured we might do well to keep a little stockpile! We hope this supply will tide us over until we are producing enough maize of our own.

50KG sacks of maize (left), 25KG sacks of hard wheat berries (right)

Maize is much more nutritious if it is “nixtamalized” (soaked and boiled in an alkali solution) before being eaten, so that is what we want to do. We are full of plans for trying to make our own posole, tamales, and grits.

I had a first try at nixtamalising some of the maize yesterday. As per the instructions in “The Encyclopedia of Country Living,” I soaked it in a baking soda solution and then boiled it for quite a while to loosen the skins. They came off much easier than the book said they would — but I think that was because I got distracted and left the pot boiling longer than I should have. Oops! It was good that the skins came off easily, but the kernels had become very fragile and some were rather falling to bits! We have a lot to learn about this matter! After a great deal of rinsing, I further boiled the resulting product. It tastes a lot like the posole (hominy) that we used to be able to buy in a tin in the USA, except it’s yellow rather than white, and the kernels are falling apart rather than staying intact. I don’t know why it failed to turn white as I believe it ought to. Perhaps the alkali solution wasn’t strong enough?? Is it because of the type of corn we’re using? Since the kernels haven’t turned white, I’m not sure if we can actually say that the corn has been nixtamalized successfully. This is all very perplexing! Still, we are going to try some of this corn product for dinner tonight — trying to eat it as a polenta/hominy-type hybrid. It seems like it will taste ok, even if further experimentation is still needed to get it just right. (I made a bunch of it, and am hoping it tastes good enough to merit freezing in meal-sized batches for “fast-food” dinners!)

Plans for further maize-preparation experiments:
*Try using lime water or lye (if I can find any lye around here) to soak the maize instead of baking soda.
*Try the cold-soak (no-boil) method mentioned in “The Encyclopedia of Country Living.” This takes a lot longer, but would be much more energy-efficient
*”Nourishing Traditions” gives a recipe where you first grind the maize, and then soak it in lime water before cooking. I’d like to grind some of the maize in our grain mill and see how this recipe works out as well.

We hope that with time and practice we’ll learn which methods of preparing the maize are easiest, tastiest, and most nutritious.

We had some of the corn mixture for dinner, cooked up with a little salt, butter and rapadura. We served it with beef chili and cheese, plus a green salad from the garden, and found it very tasty.

Corn chili meal