Friday, September 9, 2011

Making Hominy III

At the beginning, please let me say that I absolutely detest blogspot's interface for posting photographs. It's unstable and and nigh on to impossible to handle. I have never been able to place photographs exactly where I want them using blogspot. Yes. I've tried to edit the html, which I used to be fairly good at doing. No more, apparently.

I've cried uncle and given up to their terrible interface and accepted the pics will be put where blogspot wants them to be put no matter what I try. I apologize for the crummy placement of the photographs in the post. I tried. I lost.

Here's to another attempt at making hominy and an almost success! I finally found real lye and used the recipe in my Farm Journal book; said recipe is very close to the recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 

At the beginning
The main difference in the recipes is the handling of the rinsing after cooking in lye and rinsing the lye off. I'm so happy to find that using lye actually gets the dark nib off the kernels. The Mexican method of using pickling lime may make it suitable for grinding for masa, but doesn't make a product without the dark nib, which we Southerners are used to as our hominy.

After about 5 minutes
I didn't follow the cooking recipe exactly, and got voted down for it. Uncle Charles came over today with a bit of okra. He tasted one of the jars of hominy and declared it "grainy" and opined it likely did need that bit of cooking I didn't do.

What I did was to cut out the last step of cooking between making and canning. The recipe called for cooking for 40 minutes or so until soft and then processing in the canner for 60 minutes. I had thought it was pretty soft and decided to can it without the 40 minutes of cooking.  I needed another opinion beside my own, and Uncle thinks it needs the cooking. So I'll try that on the next attempt.

This post will mainly be a pictoral showing the process. Whenever I finally decide I've got it down pat, I'll write a recipe post.

After 10 minutes
After 20 minutes
The lye:  It used to be that there was a brand called Red Devil that one could buy in most grocery stores, and that was the brand most Southerners used in making hominy. Either Red Devil went out of business or was swallowed up by another company, and it can't be found anymore. In my little town, my local grocery store sells a brand by ComStar called "Pure Lye."  All of the recipes say use a food grade lye rather than a drain cleaner. Although that might be considered an oxymoron, it actually means to use a lye that is 100% lye. According the ingredient list on the container and its own website, the ComStar lye is a "drain cleaner" lye, but it contains no other ingredients than sodium hydroxide. Some other lyes do. This is the brand I used.

The first step is to mix 4 tablespoons of lye to 8 quarts water for processing 2 quarts dried corn. I used 1 quart corn and mixed 2 tblsp lye to 4 quarts water. I stirred the lye into the water in a stainless steel pan. Once dissolved, I added the corn and turned the heat to high. Your'e supposed to cook this "30 minutes or until the hulls start to come off."

Okay. Doesn't that sound simple? It really wasn't. It's not like you can see the hull sloughing off the corn. It took me two tries to decide that when the solution begins to get thick and you can detect a rather gelatinous glop in places that that's the hulls coming off. The first time I just cooked for 30 minutes. The stuff in the pan turned into the texture of a thick chowder. The second time, I cooked for 20 minutes and decided that gelatinous stuff I saw was actually the hulls coming off and quit cooking it. That's the key.

When you first start, everything is clear  and bright. Then the corn begins to turn dark. The solution begins to turn dark. The wooden spoon begins to turn dark. It darkens continuously through the cooking. If you cook 30 minutes, the solution is opaque, and you can't see through it; it's also terribly thick. When I cooked 20 minutes, the solution was mostly opaque, but it wasn't quite as thick.

At this point you let the corn and solution sit for "about 20 minutes." Then you begin the rinsing. I was all cool with this until I started to dump the solution through a strainer and realized the drain pipes were PVC. Well, bull hockey. Was I going to eat the PVC out? Since I don't dare eat the drain pipes out, I drained the first rinse out into another pan and dumped it outside. Luckily we have a good place to dump it. Then you keep rinsing the corn in fresh water until you have the nibs out.

After 30 minutes
How thick the solution is
According the Farm Journal recipe, at this point, you cover the hominy with 1 inch of water, boil it for 5 minutes and rinse. You do this 5 times. What a royal pain in the patooty.  The first time I did this I got sidetracked by first Joe needing supper, then Lola needing supper, then deciding I'd faint myself without supper. So the pot sat for about an hour before the boiling 5 times. Originally I decided this helped turn the hominy to mush. Yet it's at this point the Ball Blue Book diverges from the Farm Journal and says to let the hominy sit in fresh water, changing it 4-5 times for 2-3 hours. This will take further experimenting to decide what's best. If I do let it sit, I'll at least change the water every 30 minutes or so.

Hominy after rinsing

After this, you're supposed to boil the hominy 40 minutes or so until soft. This is step I didn't do. I immediately went to processing for 1 hour in the pressure canner. What I discovered is that the corn kernels still suck up an incredible amount of water and swell considerably. I ended up with no head space, jars only about 2/3 full of water, 2 out of 5 pints didn't seal, and opinion is that it wasn't cooked enough. Okay. Cook the hominy 40 minutes at least before canning.

The hominy is a bit more translucent than store-bought hominy. It wasn't in perfect kernels like store bought. There were more smaller bits floating around than I wanted. Using a slotted spoon to put in the jars helps a bit with this. Also, I decided that using a separate pan of boiling water rather than the water you boil the hominy in makes a pretty, less cloudy product.
Canned Hominy

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