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Prepare corn according to the Nourishing Traditions (Traditional Food) method by soaking the corn in lime water prior to using. Ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures developed nixtamalization using lime and ash to create alkaline solutions to treat corn.
Click here for a recipe for making Soft Polenta using pickling lime to soak the corn; a delicious and frugal recipe.
To prepare corn according to the Nourishing Traditions (Traditional Foods) method: Add one inch of lime to a 2 quart jar. Add non-chlorinated water. Shake to combine. (Some lime will settle in the bottom of the jar.) Carefully pour the lime water off without disturbing the settled portion at the bottom of the jar. Soak the whole corn or cornmeal in lime water for at least seven hours before using (the next step according to Nourishing Traditions is to soak the cornmeal in buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir). Whole corn and cornmeal can both benefit from soaking in lime water.
Nixtamalizing corn by soaking it in lime water produces corn that is more easily ground (when treating whole corn rather than corn meal), its nutritional value is increased through the freeing up of Vitamin B3, flavor and aroma are improved, and mycotoxins (a type of fungus) are reduced. Unprocessed Maize (corn) is deficient in niacin which is problematic when corn is used as a staple food in a diet. While it is suggested that corn should soak in lime water for 7 hours prior to using it in cooking, traditional cultures would often soak corn for 1-2 weeks.
To make nixtamal, traditional societies would add whole corn to the alkaline (lime water) solution, cook and steep the mixture, then wash the corn. Afterwards, the nixtamal would be ground and become masa which was either used fresh in a dough to make tortillas, arepas, and tamales. If the mixture was dried, it became instant masa flour which could later be reconstituted and used.
Pickling Lime is also known as Hydrated Lime which is Food-Grade Saturated Calcium Hydroxide Solution. Use caution when handling and be sure to rinse the corn thoroughly after soaking.