Oct 9, 2011, 1:52 PM
Interesting discussion, but incomplete.
Maíz nixtamalizado, the cooked, lime treated dried corn is today almost universally prepared using slaked lime – cal, calcium oxide, ceniza de cal – as it makes the perfect balance between the slightly alkaline sodium bicarbonate – tequesquite – and the extremely alkaline sodium/potassium hydroxides in hardwood ash - ceniza – the former being a bit weak to easily make good nixtamal and the latter being much too strong to make good nixtamal. NOB the latter (lye – sodium hydroxide) is what is used to make hominy, an NOB nixtamal robbed of all its wonderful natural flavor IMHO.
The very good reason that the nixtamalization process is used on corn is to make the natural vitamin, B3 – niacin – nutritionally available for human consumption for the prevention of the vitamin deficiency disease pellagra, a scourge of the poor in the southern U.S. and many areas of Europe. Although discovered by the indigenous Mexicans many centuries ago, and still the reason today that cornmeal – coarsely ground dried corn – and most cornmeal products are unknown in México, it was only formally announced and encouraged by the U.S. government scientists in the late 1930s, something that caused the rapid increase in the use of hominy and hominy grits – dried, coarsely ground hominy – in the U.S. south and the elimination of the widespread pellagra suffered there and around the world.
Many NOB recipes for "Mexican" foods call for hominy, but that is a poor, tasteless substitute for true nixtamal…Mexican style.
Today, in Mexican cuisine, tequesquite is primarily used as a leavening agent, rather than for the nixtamalization process. For this use, sodium bicarbonate – baking soda, NOT baking powder – is the perfect substitute.
(This post was edited by mazbook1 on Oct 9, 2011, 1:54 PM)