Category Archives: corn

Roasting Corn

Blue Corn raosted

roasted blue corn and plain blue corn

Roasting the corn first, changes the color,  and gives it a deeper and heartier flavor, favored by many:

In a frying pan, toast the cornmeal over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, to prevent burning. After 3-5 minutes you will see the color change. The darker you roast it, the deeper the taste. You have to find out yourself, how long to roast it exactly to the taste you desire.

You’ll love the amazing aroma in your kitchen when you roast corn!

Roasted Blue Corn

Blue Corn roasted in an iron skillet

 

Juniper Ash Water

Some traditional recipes you find will advise you to mix the juniper ashes right in with the corn and water. It all depends on ‘what your grandma taught you’.

I suggest to strain the ashes first.

Juniper Ashes Water

To make water: Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add ash. Steep 10 – 15 minutes and strain into separate container. Make only what is needed and use immediately, because it does not keep.

Juniper Ash

Gad Bit’éézh

In most recipes that list corn as an ingredient, we will find an add-on, that has not been given the attention it really deserves: Juniper Ash. Ash is highly alkaline.  Mixing juniper ash with water or adding the ash directly to the corn and then mixing it with water, creates an alkali solution. Only lately has the alkaline processing of corn been fully understood by modern science. In effect, without alkali processing of corn, there would be a considerable degree of malnutrition in societies where corn is the major part of the diet.

Juniper Ash

Juniper Ash

We can assume, that the alkali treatment in the preparation of corn for food,  gave rise to  the Mayan and Aztec cultures.

The first household equipment for Nixtamalization, as this treatment is called, was found on the south coast of Guatemala, and dates back to 1500 – 1200 B.C. (In the Aztec language Nahuatl, the word for the product of this procedure is nixtamalli or nextamalli . The Nahuatl word is a compound of nextli “ashes” and tamalli “unformed corn dough, tamal.)

The secrets of alkali processing, having their roots in the Mesoamerican cultures, were inherited and transmitted by the cultures of the Southwest: the Anasazi and their descendants living in the contemporary pueblo villages. We find a lot of identical recipes and similar ways of preparing corn among the Native American Nations here in the Southwest: be it Diné, Zuni, Hopi, Tohono O’odham or Apache or any of the Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande. And of course, also in the population of Spanish descend.

No matter what their source for ash, all the Native American cultures have essentially the same process for preparing corn into dough. Ash is stirred into hot water, then the mixture is strained.

Alkali cooking frees otherwise unavailable nutrients, which are not absent in corn but locked in. These are the benefits:

  • deeper flavor
  • it takes the hull off the corn
  •  softens the corn kernels, more easily ground
  • nutritional value increased
  • allows dough formation
  •  enhances the quality of corn protein: it alters the protein content to make it a more complete protein
  •  it  makes the niacin in corn more absorbable in the human body
  • enriches the corn with needed minerals: increases  calcium, zinc,  iron and magnesium content
  • it significantly reduces  molds that commonly infect corn

Many recipes you see ask for baking soda to substitute for juniper ashes – baking soda has neither the flavor nor the mineral content of the ashes!

Blue corn meal mush with juniper ash has 802 mg of calcium in one cup, compared to 2.4 mg of the same amount without ash.  Ash is also superior to baking soda in boiled hominy corn. The ash adds calcium and Vitamin A. However, the baking soda does not add calcium but sodium which can increase hypertension.

 

 

 

Blue Corn Mush fried

Blue Corn Mush fried
Cuisine: Navajo contemporary
 

use traditional Blue Corn Mush Recipe. Make it firm, otherwise you cannot fry it.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon juniper ashes
  • 1 cup blue cornmeal

Instructions
  1. Heat up oil in a pan and fry chile. Slice the firm mush into pieces. Fry the slices in oil until crisped on both sides. Its good with eggs for breakfast.

 

Blue Corn Mush

tanaashgiizh

Blue corn Mush
Cuisine: Navajo
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 3-4
 

This is the basic, traditional recipe. You can also roast the cornmeal first. Add dried apricots and dried peaches for variation.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon juniper ashes
  • 1 cup blue cornmeal

Instructions
  1. Burn juniper to get some ashes. It’s best if you burn a lot and have it at hand when needed. I only made a small amount for this recipe. You do have to clean whatever falls into the pan. I used a sifter. I will devote a blog just to making juniper ashes. From the amount I burnt (photo), I produced 3-4 tablespoons.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the juniper ashes. Whisk in the cornmeal slowly to prevent it from lumping. Lower the heat and stir the cornmeal for 15 minutes or until it tastes done (It will get smooth and firm). The coarser the meal, the longer it will take.

Notes
If you want a firmer mush, use less water. A firmer mush can be fried in chunks, not possible with a mush that contains too much water. You will have to experiment yourself, until you find the consistency that you prefer. I also add a pinch of salt, to spice it up. For a contemporary recipe see our fried blue corn mush recipe.

 

blue corn mush roasted

the blue corn mush has been roasted before cooking

instruction on how to roast corn you’ll find here