How They're Made
About Our Tortillas
The vast majority of corn tortillas you will find in markets in the United States are made using rehydrated corn flour, such as maseca. This is definitely the easiest way to make them. However a handful of places in the United States make corn tortillas the traditional way, using an ancient process called nixtamalization. Scientists believe people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7000 years ago from a grass. Nixtamalization was first developed in Mesoamerica, which is the central region of America, from central Mexico to Costa Rica to the mountains of Peru, but it was also practiced by Native Americans in North America, from the plains of Texas to the valleys of Vermont in New England.
In corn nixtamalization the corn kernel is soaked and cooked in a lime solution which removes removes the skin of the kernel and produces a softer dough than unprocessed ground corn. Corn can be nixtamalized to produce a variety of products including masa, hominy, and tortilla chips.
Nixtamalization corn is more nutritious, has less mycotoxins, and has better flavor. The nixtamalization process also converts bound niacin (vitamin B3) in the corn to free niacin that the body can absorb.
The process is as follows:
- Add an alkaline solution- such as food grade lime- to the corn kernels.
- Cook the corn in the solution
- Let the corn steep in the solution
- Wash the corn
Once these steps are followed you have nixtamal, or masa. The nixtamal can then be ground to make masa. Masa can be used to make corn tortillas, tortillas chips, or tamales, or it can be dried. It can be left whole and boiled again to produce boiled corn used in posole.