Monthly Archives: October 2019

It’s Masa Time!–Making Tortillas with “Fast” Corn

Pearly kernels of Tohono O’odham 60-day corn (MABurgess photo)

Gardening is hardly an “instant-gratification” activity (altho’ the gardening process from the git-go is instantly gratifying to soul and body).  But if you want to try the fastest seed-to-harvest corn cycle on the Planet, next summer try growing Tohono O’odham 60-day Hu:ñ!  It’s the closest thing to instant-gratification-gardening.  Trust the Desert People–the Tohono O’odham of southern Arizona and northwest Sonora– to have selected and perfected a flour corn fit for the rainfall vagaries of a Sonoran Desert summer!  Seeds of this precious crop have been conserved and multiplied over the years by the caring folks at NativeSeedsSEARCH and are available for Southwest gardeners to plant.

Tia Marta here, inspiring you to try your hand at making corn tortillas with this ancient, local, and well-adapted corn!  Volunteers at Tucson’s Mission Garden just harvested their monsoon crop of Tohono O’odham 60-day dried cobs, and they invited MaizTucson’s Carlos Figueroa to make masa with it and to provide tastes of tortillas made with this special heirloom corn.

Three kinds of heirloom corn kernels ready for nixtamalization. Tohono O’odham 60-day corn is at lower right (blue corn at top, traditional nixtamal corn lower left)

He explained how he boiled the kernels until they were softening, then he added slake lime (food grade calcium hydroxide) and let it stand overnight.  [There are detailed instructions online how to make nixtamal.]  He ground the  nixtamal in a stone mill to make the masa, adding enough of the reserved cooking liquid to have the right dough consistency.

Form your masa into a ball about the size of a golf ball before putting into your tortilla press or rolling with rolling pin.

He formed the masa into balls for placing between two sheets of wax paper in a tortilla press.  No problem if you do not have a press.  A rolling pin works fine with your dough sandwiched in wax paper.

60-day corn tortillas and blue corn on the grill at Mission Garden

a 60-day corn tortilla on the grill with blue corn tortilla

forming a basin in the soft masa as it heats on the griddle, to make quesadilla-style cheese-and-salsa melt or “Southwest pizza”

 

After pressing, he showed how to peel one sheet of wax paper and put the dough side into his hand for easy placing onto a very hot grill.  Instead of a grill, I use an ungreased iron skillet on the stovetop.  Grill your round of masa until it begins to puff on top, then flip it to allow it to puff up on the other side.  You may want to flip it twice before it is grilled through.  The great news is that MaizTucson has ready-to-use masa from Tohono O’odham 60-day Corn available for sale at some farmers markets, so you can take the gardening-later short-cut!

Serve your tortillas hot –as with the preceding delicious recipe for tomatillo stew (scroll back to the Oct.20 post in this same blog!)  You could also create a fancy appetizer by pinching masa dough into a little basin.  After it is grilled, fill it with grated cheese, chopped tomatoes or salsa and melt it in a quick oven for a “Southwest pizza”.

MaizTucson has prepared masa from the heirloom Tohono O’odham 60-day corn grown at Tucson’ Mission Garden.  Check the MaizTucson instagram for where to buy it.  (MABurgess photo)

Talk about sustainability!  Think about the month of water saved by growing a short-season corn compared to normal 90-day  corn varieties.  All the more reason for happy tortilla-grilling and eating with this desert-adapted, highly nutritious Tohono O’odham 60-day corn masa!

Your homemade corn tortillas will go really well with Tia Marta’s heirloom bean soup mixes!

Tom’s Mix Southwest Bean Mix–14 delicious heirlooms with recipes

Native American-grown Tepary Bean Mix with recipes, available at http://www.flordemayoarts.com and other southwest specialty stores

For Southwest heirloom foods and gift ideas for the holiday season check out my website www.FlordeMayoArts.com and order early.  Or you can find my jojoba herbal soaps, notecard and canvas art tote creations, sacred sage bundles, white Sonora wheat berries, and colorful heirloom bean  and tepary mixes at special stores–Tohono Chul Museum Shop, NativeSeedsSEARCH store, Presidio Museum in the center of Tucson, Old Town Artisans, Wiwpul Du’ag East at San Xavier Mission Plaza, Saguaro National Park West bookstore, and Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, AZ.

Notecard and canvas tote artwork by Martha Ames Burgess, http://www.flordemayoarts.com

Luxurious herbal jojoba soaps created by Martha Ames Burgess, made with local desert plants and healing jojoba

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What to do with tomatillos? Carne en su Jugo

Hello, Amy here, with tomatillos from my Tucson CSA share. Some people asked me what to do with them if they don’t like salsa. Try a soup! Carne en su jugo, meat stewed in is own juices, is a traditional Mexican dish that features tomatilos and makes a little meat go a long way. Mole Verde powder contains lots of green chile and cilantro, so I used that for seasoning and it worked perfectly.

Start by sorting, soaking and boiling pinto beans.

Use any cut of beef; trim and cut into tiny bites. Boil the trimmings to make a broth. Cut a few slices of bacon into tiny bites and fry to make it crispy and render the fat. Set aside the bacon and save the fat in the pan.

Then husk and boil tomatillos in water.

They will start bright green but are done when soft and dull green.

Drain the tomatillos. Then peel and mash, or just puree whole in the blender.

Next, brown the beef in the bacon fat. Salt to taste. Add some sliced garlic and onion, to taste. I used elephant garlic and red onion from Tucson CSA. Then add some home made beef broth and stew until tender.

Add the pureed tomatillos. In a separate pan, I cooked a couple tablespoons of Mole Verde powder in a little oil and then thinned with more beef broth. All that went into the pot, too. Salt to taste again.

Spoon in some cooked pintos. Cook for a few minutes for the flavors come together and the stew thicken a little. At the last moment, stir in the crunchy bacon or sprinkle on top of each serving. Eat with hot corn tortillas. Enjoy!


Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Home-Cured Olives are Easy

I like to pick olives when they are part green and part black. But all green or all black, if they aren’t over ripe, are fine as well.

Fall may mean colorful leaves and apple harvests in the temperate regions of the globe, but in Southern Arizona and warm desert regions around the world, it is olive harvest time. Several years ago, a famous author died, and many notables who had been guests in his home on the coast of Southern Italy recalled their visits. One woman remembered walking through the olive groves and plucking and eating juicy olives. I laughed aloud when I read that. She may have plucked something, but it wasn’t olives. Olives off the tree are very bitter and they must be processed to be edible. The bitterness is due to a substance called oleuropein.

Various cultures have their own methods of removing the bitterness from olives. There’s the dry salt method, the brine method, the water method and the lye method. For 30 years I have followed instructions taught by the late Dr. Robert H. Forbes, who became dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Arizona in 1899. He had made an intensive study of the home processing of curing olives. His process uses lye and the method has always worked for me. Last week when I went to the hardware store to buy the lye and told the clerk what I was going to do with it, he kept cautioning me that it was poison and came close to refusing to sell it to me. By following the instructions carefully, I never poisoned myself or the recipients of my olives.

(Aside: Dr. Forbes was still alive when I was a young journalism student in 1964. I interviewed him at his home on the edge of the University of Arizona campus on Olive Street, surrounded by gnarled old olive trees. His house stood where the Center for Creative Photography is now.)

You can home process green olives, black olives or those somewhere in between. Many people with olive trees would be happy to have you harvest from their yard and cut down on the mess when the olive drop. I just knock on the door and ask. Then later I leave a small jar of finished olives on their porch with a note.

You’ll need some glass jars to process your olives.

It’s too much typing to explain Dr. Forbes’ method, but the good folks at UC Davis have done a complete description of each method of olive processing and you can find them here.    The difference in Dr. Forbes’ lye method is that it doesn’t call for a changing of the lye bath.  You just leave the olives in the original lye solution until either taste or a litmus paper shows that the bitterness has been removed.  For me, this has been between five and seven days.  But lye is cheap and you’ll have more than necessary, so if changing helps, why not?  You can find another whole way to dealing with olives in a months’ long process here.

If you happen to live in Tucson, Jill Lorenzini will be discussing olive curing at the Santa Cruz River Farmers Market on the afternoon of October 24.

With the lye plan, after the bitterness is gone, the olives are rinsed (and rinsed!) to remove the lye and hardened with successively strong salt brine solutions. Lastly, they are freshened in water.  Whatever your processing plan, I like to flavor mine with a mixture of olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic cloves and fresh herbs from my garden. You can also slip in a small chile.

A few olives, some cheeses, all you need is a glass of wine to make a perfect Happy Hour snack.

Home processing olives is neither difficult nor overly time consuming, but you do need to get yourself some big glass jars and commit about five minutes a day to the endeavor.  For that little bit of effort, you can end up with a year’s supply of olives for only the cost of lye and salt and some nice gifts for your friends and family. Just one caution: don’t tell the clerk what you are buying the lye for.

One more thing: My book on the 10,000 years of culinary history that led to Tucson being named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy has entered editing and over the next few months I’ll be posting a few bits of the most interesting information I learned in the two years I spent researching. Please follow me on my Facebook author page (Carolyn Niethammer author). I learned lots and would like to share it with you.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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