The Nixtamalization of Corn: an Historic Practice

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I find it interesting that our society has taken what has been a nourishing food eaten at most meals for generations and turned it into one of the most toxic ingredients in our food chain. Now corn is in everything and in many strange forms. As a sweetener it is prevalent, as a filler it is everywhere, and as a GMO grain it fills our grocery stores. But it wasn’t always like this. Heirloom corn was eaten in South America for generations with good results, but this corn was nixtamalized.

The nixtamalization of corn isn’t exactly a culturing process. It is, however, a historic means by which a society improved the quality of their raw ingredients, making them more digestible and unlocking certain nutrients for better health.

In those terms, nixtamalization isn’t that far off from fermentation. The process isn’t all that different from souring grains, either, in that time and liquid are involved.

The other key ingredient is lime, and not the citrus fruit. Let’s take a closer look at this age-old practice and which common corn foods can be made from them…. 

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Shannon

Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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Culturing Courage

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I hear all the time from people who are nervous about getting started culturing. We live in a very germ-phobic society where hand sanitizer is everywhere and the news regularly reports outbreaks of foodborne illness or tainted food recalls. For those who have worked in food service, the image of the thermometer proclaiming “Danger Zone” is permanently etched in memory.

So how can you make the leap from over caution about food to leaving a jar of cabbage on the counter for 3 weeks? Or perhaps even leaving milk out for 48 hours!… 

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Sarah

Sarah

I live in Oregon with my 4 kids. I hop between my kitchen and sewing room. As the daughter of a ranch-girl turned County Extension Agent, I really believe that with enough ingenuity and know-how, anything can be made. I try to keep some cultured vegetables and condiments on hand, as well as a robust supply of yogurt. What really excites me though is finding old ways of culturing foods from around the world and making it work in my life. “I wonder” is a phrase I utter a lot, and can make my kids nervous! I love to learn and share what I’ve discovered.

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Sourdough Starter Kvass with Lemon, Ginger, & Honey

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I’m always trying to keep up with our family’s need for more cultured foods. This is particularly important when we don’t have a mother culture like kombucha, water kefir, or milk kefir brewing. But, it does offer up an opportunity for me to be creative and use what we do have.

Fermented vegetables are always on the table, pun intended. But I wanted something fun and fizzy, without having to go to the store for ingredients I didn’t already have. I also needed something dairy-free for those in the house who can’t have it. I decided to dip my toes into the grain-based kvass world by making a light kvass from the rye sourdough starter I had on hand.

Here’s how it went.

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Shannon

Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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The Role of Cultured Foods in a Sustainable Food System: Health & Energy Savings

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Previously in This Series:

So many of the wonderful properties of cultured foods are interrelated. The lactic acid in them has been found by modern day science to have many benefits, but that is also what preserves the kraut, which saves you the energy output needed for canning or freezing the cabbage instead.

And so, I thought I’d wrap this series up by discussing two more of the benefits cultured foods can bring to any food system – health and energy savings. Let me start by asking you this: what is it like to live without refrigeration and all of the other conveniences that electricity has brought to the kitchen? And what would make such a feat possible?

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Shannon

Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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