This makes quite a bit of masa—around 3 pounds—but if making fresh nixtamal is new for you, you’ll want to have some leftover dough for use later.
I prefer to freeze extra dough in 1-pound balls, in sealed plastic bags, or, if I have a friend on hand to help, we’ll make tortillas and freeze those. Masa or frozen tortillas should last at least a few months in the freezer, tightly sealed.
- 2 pounds dried corn for making tortillas/masa
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon powdered calcium oxide also known as cal
- Pick over the corn carefully, removing any stones or bits of matter.
- Pour the water into a large pot. Add the calcium oxide and stir until dissolved. Bring this mixture to a vigorous boil.
- Stir in the corn, making sure it does not stick to the bottom. Lower the flame to medium, and simmer until the outer skin of the corn barely scrapes off with your fingernail, 7 to 10 minutes. The corn will still be hard at this point. Do not overcook it or else your masa will be too gummy.
- Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit at least 6 hours or overnight.
- The next day, drain the corn. Wash the kernels well, rubbing them between your hands to loosen and discard any errant skins. This may take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how many of the skins came loose in the pot.
- At this point the corn is ready to be ground, either by hand or at a local mill. (The kernels must be cool or room temperature in order to do so.) Once the corn has been ground into tortilla masa, it must be sufficiently hydrated and kneaded. Then the masa is ready to be shaped into tortillas.