Corn is a great grain today, but this was not the case in the ancient times. European colonists learned to cook corn only from the Native Americans. It is the Natives who turned corn into hominy (also called Nixtamal) and made it what it is today. Corn cannot become Hominy unless it is treated with lye water. It is lye which makes the corn soft, tender and edible. This article will focus on the nutritional value, cooking procedures and old Native American folklore about Hominy corn.
Hominy Corn nutritional value: Hominy grits is a great cereal for breakfast. It can be used as a side dish for any meal, baking or can be served with mashed potatoes. It is ideal for instant cooking and hence, many prefer it to other cereals or grains. Lye soaking process makes hominy corn very nutritional. It increases the amount of lysine and tryptophan in the corn, making the proteins in the corn easily digestible. Processing of corn in the Native American way using lye prevents tryptophan deficiency and Pellagra which results from that. Though lye water is highly caustic, using it to soften the kernels adds value to the corn’s nutritional and edibility quotient.
Hominy and old Indian food-lore: As mentioned earlier, hominy is the food of the Native Americans. It is they who taught the European settlers how to cook hominy from dent corn. The word hominy itself is derived from an ancient Algonquin Indian word. Down the ages, Americans have changed the lexical terms used to refer to hominy. In the American South, Hominy generally refers to Homing Grits, while in New Orleans, unground hominy is called ‘Big Hominy’ and the grits are referred to us ‘Little Hominy’. Whatever be the terminology, hominy has become a way of American gastronomical life.
Lye Hominy – How to cook? Lye water is used to cook hard-kernel variety of dent corn to remove their skin (hull). Kernels are removed and soaked in lye water which immediately separates the hull from the kernel. This lye bathing is good because it makes the corn sterile and suitable for long term storage. The corn is sold unground after the hulls are removed and the kernels are softened.
To make hominy corn, you first need to soak the kernels of dent corn in lye water till the hulls float off from the kernels. Then, you need to wash off the lye-soaked, no-hulls grains in clean water for several times. This step is important as you need to wash off the lye completely before recognizing them as a kitchen food item. Once the lye is out of question, you can grind the corn and make hominy grits (soft, non-crunchy tiny pieces of corn). If you want to cook hominy grits, boil 4 cups of salted water and stir 1 cup of grits into the water, after reducing the simmer for about 40 minutes. Keep stirring on the grits all through the 40 minutes. If you don’t have time to stir, use double boiler which can make the job easier. You can also increase the simmer heat and cook for just 20 to 25 minutes if you don’t have time.