Tag Archives: maize

Pozole Rojo

Pozole Rojo is a dish I encountered during my travels in Mexico. It is warming and flavorful, ideal for cold weather and for sharing with friends. However, the reason I developed the recipe below is that it seemed like an appropriate culinary bridge between my book on corn (Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland) and the complement that came out in October 2018 (Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs: From Wild Boar to Baconfest). Corn and pork define agriculture in the American Midwest, but they also come close to defining the cuisine of Mexico. In fact, it has been said (though it is clearly an oversimplification) that Mexican food is Aztec food plus pigs.

The word pozole comes from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) pozolli, which means “hominy.” The rojo in the name (Spanish for “red”) both underscores the combined Indian/European influences in the dish and hints at other variations that exist–because not all pozole uses the red chiles found in this dish. (As is true of every dish of any antiquity, there are as many versions as there are people making it, and sometimes even more.)

Hominy is corn that has undergone nixtamalization–that is, it has been processed with lye or lime in a traditional way discovered long ago by the indigenous people of Mezoamerica. Nixtamal is the Nahutal word that refers to the product of the process. It is a process that makes the corn both more nutritious (makes niacin and lysine more bio-available) and able to be stored longer than untreated corn.

Pozole is a delicious, filling soup that, while other ingredients can and will vary, always includes hominy and pork. Traditionally made for large groups, an entire pig’s head is often included in the recipe. I wanted a version that would feed a more modest number of people, and this version makes roughly 6 servings. However, I also wanted the flavor and texture added by the bones and collagen found in the head, so I added a pound of meaty neck bones. It turned out splendidly. Hope you like it as well as I do.

Pozole Rojo

2 lb. stewing pork
1 lb. pork neck bones
10 cups water
2 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 15-oz. cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
1 clove of garlic, whole
Salt and pepper to taste

tostadas or tortilla chips
2 limes, quartered
1 onion finely sliced
cabbage or iceberg lettuce, shredded
sliced radishes

Place the pork, bones, 2 tsp salt, minced garlic, chopped onion, and hominy in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim scum as it forms. Once scum is skimmed, add black pepper. (You lose a lot of the pepper if you add it before skimming.) When water is at a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is close to falling off the bone, about 1-1/2 hours.

Remove seeds and stems from the dried chiles and discard. Place the chiles in a bowl. After the first hour of simmering the pork, remove enough liquid to just cover the chiles (about one ladleful). Let chiles soak for 30 minutes. Then place chiles, soaking broth, and the final clove of garlic in a blender and puree until smooth.

Remove the soup from the heat and remove the pork to a platter to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the stewing pork and remove all meat from the neck bones. Return meat to pot, stir in chile paste, and return pot to the heat, and simmer for another hour, until the meat is meltingly tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with a selection of the suggested garnishes/accompaniments. (Not all need to be included to still be authentic.) Enjoy.

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Mexican Corn Stew

The following recipe is for a dish that is both vibrantly colorful and wonderfully flavorful. Don’t be intimidated by the four jalapeño peppers — if you remove the seeds and white membrane from inside the peppers, they hardly have any heat, especially when cooked a long time, so it’s a very mild dish. If you want it to be hot, however, leave the seeds in one or more of the jalapeños, or add some crushed red pepper or a dash of cayenne at the end of the cooking time.

Guacamole with tortilla chips would make a nice accompaniment to this dish.

Mexican Corn Stew
1 cup dry pinto beans
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 1 Tbs., if you buy it chopped)
4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup diced tomato (fresh or canned)
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 48-oz can chicken broth (about 6 cups)
16-oz. package frozen corn kernels
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander Continue reading

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Simply A-Maize-ing

Indian Corn

Indian Corn

One thing of which we are all relatively certain here in the U.S. is that European settlers learned about corn from American Indians. Right? Well, not really. What they learned about from the indigenous peoples of the New World was maize, not corn. Sound like double talk? Well, as it turns out, the word corn may not mean what you think it does, at least not if you’re an American. The term corn actually means the most important cereal crop of a region. Hence, wheat was traditionally the corn of England, oats were the corn of Ireland and Scotland, rye was the corn of northern Germany, and in South Africa, the grain known as Bantu corn is millet. The term can also mean small, hard seed, which is why the seed from barley is often called barleycorn. When settlers reached the New World, they called the grain grown most commonly by the Native Americans “Indian corn.” Which explains why, even though no one in Europe had seen maize before they reached the Americas, you see references to corn in older literature. Only in the United States is the word corn used to denote maize alone.

(A little etymological aside here: The corn that means grain comes from Old Norse, korn, which means “grain.” The hard bump that grows on some toes, though it may feel like a hard seed, actually gets its name from the Middle English/Middle French corne, which means “horn.” So the words are unrelated.)

Zea mays, or maize, is the only cereal grain indigenous to the New World. It appears to have been domesticated around 6600 BC in the area of Mexico known today as Oaxaca, where, scholars conjecture, it was intentionally bred from a wild grass known as teosinte. (The conjecture is that it was intentionally bred, not that it came from teosinte.) Teosinte still grows in some parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Interestingly, while teosinte does just fine on its own, maize doesn’t. Maize is, in fact, the only cereal grain that cannot disperse its seeds without human intervention. It is so domesticated it can’t get along without us. Continue reading

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