Rations for the Native Seeds/SEARCH farm apprentices are largely based on food that is grown at the Conservation Farm. They have access to a wide variety of dried corns and beans at the farm, and these foods have become staples. If you visit the farm, you are sure to witness the making of "daily bread" — corn tortillas!
Here is some information about how to make fresh corn tortillas, and a recipe for our take on garlic bread. This post is provided by the 2013 farm apprentices: Danielle, Matt, Pablo, Travis, and Francesca.
For tortillas you will need:
Flour or flint corn of your choice
Calcium Hydroxide (called pickling lime in some groceries)
A large stainless steel pot
A corn grinder
A tortilla press
A tortilla pan or non-stick frying pan
Before grinding the corn to make the tortillas, we nixtamalize the corn. This works best with flour or flint corns, not sweet corns. We have experimented using a couple of corn varieties such as Chapalote and Tohono O’odham 60 Day. The term nixtamalization comes from the Aztec language Nuahatl, and refers to a process where corn is boiled with Calcium Hydroxide in order to remove the pericarp and make the kernels easier to grind, and more nutritious. Nixtamalization increases the bio-available niacin content in the corn. The process also has the added benefit of killing mycotoxins that may be present in the corn, from fungal infection.
Panic Grass at the Conservation Farm
The process of making nixtamalized corn is easy:
- Start by putting the corn into a large pot, and covering with water. The pot should be made of stainless steel (non-reactive material).
- Add Calcium Hydroxide to make a slurry. We make nixtamalized corn in bulk, and normally add a small cupful of Calcium Hydroxide to the water. A generally-accepted measurement for the Calcium Hydroxide, or "Cal", is 1% Cal by weight of corn.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook for 15-45 minutes. The corn is ready when the skin is partially dissolved and comes off easily, the outside is slimy, and the inside is soft but not crumbling. The length of time is dependent upon the corn variety and may take some experimentation.
- The next step is to soak the corn in the water for between 2 and 24 hours to allow it to soften further.
- Once soaked, drain the water from the corn. Rub the skins off gently under running water. The corn is now ready to be ground to make masa, the dough for tortillas.
To make tortillas, add water slowly to the ground corn, working it with your hands, so that it forms into a dough, known as masa. Shape the masa into a ball that is able to stick to itself, but not your hands. Form little round balls of masa, about the size of a dessert spoon, and press them out using a tortilla press. Using wax paper liners on each side of the press helps keep the dough from sticking to the plates. Gently place the tortillas onto a pre-heated tortilla pan or non-stick frying pan, and cook for about 40 seconds on each side.
You can enjoy the tortillas fresh as they are, as part of a meal, or use them in many different recipes, such as enchiladas, or our "garlic bread."
For the garlic bread, you will need:
Tortillas – pressed out but uncooked
Minced garlic or scapes – best done in a food processor or blender
Take one tortilla, and spread the minced garlic or scapes over it generously. Place a knob of butter over the garlic, and another tortilla over the top. You have the option of either leaving the shape like this, and simply pinching the two tortillas together at the edges, to make a disc shape, or folding this creation into an empanada-shape, or crescent, and pinching together. Place on a pre-heated tortilla pan, and cook on both sides for one minute. Repeat as many times as you like and enjoy!