Grinding And Making Blue Corn Tortillas The Traditional Way – By Hand
Manually grinding corn kernels then grilling them up is a tradition dating back thousands of years in Mexico. The other day we explored this time honored technique to help create a couple of delightful treats.
Let’s get something out of the way: there is absolutely nothing wrong with running to the store and buying a bag of pre-made tortillas. Many of us in Southern California have them all the time and some of us even grew up on them.
Today we’re using Masienda brand Heirloom Blue Bolita Corn from Oaxaca.
However, to bring them to another level where the flavor and experience is absolutely extraordinary, tortillas are at their best when they’re made traditionally. In other words, by hand.
IN PURSUIT OF A METATE
Similar to a mortar and pestle, a metate is a stone and grinding table that is traditionally made of volcanic rock. It’s been used for several millennia in Mexico to grind up corn kernels to make masa. And, apparently, they’re not too easy to find here in Southern California.
Sourced from Oaxaca’s central valleys, the bolita landrace is the backbone of Oaxacan tlayudas and tostadas found throughout the region.
Chef Javier wanted to use this ancient kitchen utensil to make a couple of dishes as authentic as possible. He made several phone calls around town here in Orange County all to no avail.
The best solution? Tijuana.
From South of the Border to scrumtious quesadillas, check out our journey as we make these wonderful delicacies.
So, a few of us headed South of the Border and hit up a few markets out there until we came across the best specimen we can find. We loaded it in the back of the trunk, scarfed down a copious amount of tacos (can’t forget about that) and then headed back to the kitchen to get started on the dishes.
USING ORGANIC BLUE CORN KERNELS
For the dishes Chef Javier had in mind, we had the pleasure of using Masienda brand Heirloom Blue Bolita Corn, imported from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Chef Javier using a traditional metate to grind the kernels into a dough or “masa”.
Sourced from Oaxaca’s central valleys, this type of corn is the backbone of Oaxacan tlayudas, large-format tortillas and tostadas found throughout the region. They’re also organic and non-GMO which is definitely a plus.
Did you know that blue corn tortillas have more protein and are less starchy (a good thing for diabetics) than white corn?
To prepare the corn, we used an ancient technique called nixtamalization, which is essentially bathing the kernels in boiling limewater. This not only makes it more pliable and easy to work with, but it also infuses it with several essential nutrients and removes much of the natural toxins.
Lime mineral or “cal” in Spanish is an essential part of the nixtamalization process.
GRINDING CORN ON THE METATE
To say this part was easy would be a bit of a mentira on our part. It’s a lot of work. Sure it’s easy to physically grind the kernels, but to get it to the right consistency takes a lot of skill and experience
After a quick soak in the limewater, there’s a noticeable change in color on the kernels.
Fortunately, we have quite a few experts on our team with a vast tortilla-making knowledge that reaches back several generations. So, after a robust upper body workout, we managed to get the masa to the right texture needed to make our hand-held delights.
After the masa is ready, they can be easily pressed into traditional tortillas.
FROM PICADILLAS TO QUESADILLAS
On this occasion, Chef wanted to create two items with the blue corn masa. One was a tasty appetizer and the other an exquisite take on a beloved classic.
Blue corn picadilla appetizers featuring seared goat cheese, salsa morita and honey.
The first one prepared was the mouth-watering Picadillas, which featured buttered blue corn masa, tangy Chile Morita, velvety goat cheese and organic honey.
Next, he whipped up a premium quesadilla which showcased corn mushroom huitlacoche, creamy Oaxacan Cheese and a spicy tomatillo milpero chile morita salsa.
Velvety oaxacan cheese, tomatillo milpero chile morita salsa and traditional huitlachoche make up this blue corn quesadilla.
Both were fantastic on their own, but it was evident the hand grinded, then manually created blue corn masa made a huge difference. The fluffy, toasty nature of the tortillas served as a wonderful vehicle that helped to bind the flavors into a unified mouth-watering delight.