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Let's talk Huitlacoche

This fungi has intrigued me for quite a while now, and I think i am finally to the point where I just HAVE to try making something with it. That being said, I have a couple questions about it!

- Where do you purchase yours?? (please dont say only Trader Joes or I will be so sad! dont have one!)
- What should i be expecting taste/flavor/smell wise?? Corn? Mushroom? Truffle? None of the above? I love all these things and am a very adventurous eater, so I cant wait!
- I have noticed it once or twice in canned form before... is this a good option or do I need to get it fresh?
- If canned is OK, how long does it last once opened? (aka: can I use it slowly or do I need to have a corn fungus party?)
- Whats your favorite recipe for highliting this interesting ingredient??

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  1. I got a pretty good stash of huitlacoche when I visited Roy Burns, "the huitlacoche guy" at his farm in Groveland, FL. He gave me 6 ears of fresh, and about 5 pounds of frozen. He wouldn't take my money, so next time I'll bring him a bottle of scotch. I nibbled a few raw nuggets on the drive home- it is a mild, earthy flavor. The fresh cooks down quite a bit, and turns from a blueish gray to jet black. My most frequent use is in omelettes with swish cheese, and in quesadillas. I sautee it in butter and then fold it into whatever. I included it in my Thanksgiving stuffing last year, with my customary oysters and chestnuts, and it was a big hit with my guests.
    When I lived in Mexico City, my ladyfriend introduced me to it, and we would drive around farm country and buy it from the little ladies who scavange it and sell it on sidewalks. She is an excellent cook, and made a casserole with huitlacoche that was extraordinary. I wish I had paid closer attention to how she made it.
    In all likelihood, canned is all you will come across. Roy sells his bagged frozen to some restaurants directly and to some food suppliers around the country, in quantities larger than for household use. He does 2 crops per year, the better harvest being Oct. into Nov. He has an irrigation system for the entire area he plants, I think around 7 acres. Each ear must be "infected" manually. That and the harvesting are quite tedious. The season for fresh is only a few weeks, and it keeps only a few days without being frozen. He has experimented with canning and jarring it, but had to add too much water which of course dilutes it, so he concluded freezing is the best way to go.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      soooo what youre saying is, i can use canned and it will still be ok? considering im not planning on making the pilgrimmage to Roys quite yet, since i dont even know if i like it yet?

      1. re: mattstolz

        Sure, start with the canned, and if you like it, allow that frozen or fresh will be measurably better. Enchilada filling is another use, and I have seen recipes for soup but I have not had it. The cans are small, 7 -7.5 oz, about 4 bucks, so you should be able to use a can cooking for two.

    2. Out of season right now. Never tried canned before.

      1. I have eaten it at restaurants, but never cooked with it before. I think finding some frozen will be your best bet, if it's possible (looks like you live in NY, so it may be, but I doubt you'll find it either fresh or frozen in most of the US).

        I have had it as filling for quesadillas -- a local Oaxacan food cart has them:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/princess...
        (the huitlacoche is inside, so you can probably just barely make it out). I find the texture a little slippery on the outside, and a little chewy / squeaky on the inside (as I've had it prepared, anyway) and the taste is both earthy and slightly reminiscent of corn. I think the resemblance to truffles has more to do with the look and (to a lesser extent) texture than with the flavor / scent.

        There's another local place that has a huitlacoche / corn filling for tacos; I don't know if it's traditional, but it is really delicious.

        9 Replies
        1. re: will47

          im actually in South Florida. Our growing seasons for everything are a little different than most of the country, due to the fact that its still 70 degrees here right now lol

          1. re: mattstolz

            Matt, my primary home is Bradenton, so my field trip to visit Roy was just a 2 hour drive, and his tour made for a delightful day. It was right about now, a year ago. I had previous pleasant experiences with huitlacoche in Mexico as my impetus, and I understand you are a blank blackboard, and an additional 2 hours away, so probably this is a trip that won't make the cut in your schedule.

            Huitlacoche holds a certain mystique, being so rare, unavailable, fragile, and interesting, a subject of intense efforts of eradication in the US, and now it is evolving as a delicacy. It is sexy stuff. And the only natural source within 2000 miles of you, is a half day's drive. Meeting Roy is a trip in itself, and he provides a fascinating education. I think he has more knowledge of huitlacoche than anyone on earth. Your thread is "Let's Talk Huitlacoche". Roy can talk it better than anyone.

            1. re: Veggo

              i think we have talked about it before, and i have honestly considered making the trip. it really does sound extremely interesting, and it sounds like something that i would actually really enjoy due to my love of food (and extreme nerdiness).

              buuuuuuut with that being said, i am in my 3rd year of Optometry school and have to take my first round of boards in just a couple months. this means life is more or less on hold with these kind of things until then. which is way less of an exaggeration than i wish it was!

              1. re: mattstolz

                Hey, there's always another crop. Keep your eye on the ball!

                1. re: Veggo

                  And to think my dad called it corn smut and tossed it out.

                  I think your description is on target, "a mild earthy flavor".

                  The Mexican restaurant I worked at in NYC purchased it frozen and we used it in quesadillas also, and just a bit of it; it was pricy and not always available.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    yes, the mexican chef i respect here in boston uses the frozen and says its quality is v.good( it's only in season in the fall, in Mexico at least.) I bet you could do a google menu search to see who is serving it, and contact one of the Latin chefs in Miami and ask if you could purchase some from them. 4-8 ou would do you a while i would guess and i bet you'd find someone helpful out there.

                    i agree w/ bwgirl 99% of the time, but i would not call its flavor 'mild'. Earthy for sure, but robustly flavored, as in truffles or chanterelles as opposed to white mushrooms.

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      I'll give you more like chanterelles as opposed to buttons, but not truffles.

                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                        last yr you said you might move back; is that happening? i want you for a neighbor! and i stick by my truffles!

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Truffles are wonderful.

                          I don't know yet about moving, it may still happen. My life it totally up in the air.

                          Boston, you're my home. Could be, anyway, and that would make me very happy. Thanks for thinking of me so nicely.

        2. I have been intrigued by huitlacoche for decades (originally read about it in Diana Kennedy's books) but I have never found a source for the fresh item. I have eaten foods made with canned huitlacoche a couple times in restaurants, and found it to have an unpleasantly muddy taste and texture. I continue to assume that the real thing would be much better.

          3 Replies
          1. re: kittyfood

            Indeed it is. And it truly is as scarce and seasonal and elusive as I suggest.

            I am not aware of a bona fide grower in the US other than Roy Burns, and there are reasons for this. His farm is in the middle of nowhere, and too distant from other corn crops that there would be a concern of his spores infecting neighbors' crops who want no part of it. The USDA spent vast sums over many decades in an attempt to eradicate it here, principally through development of resistant seed. He could not do what he does in the corn belt without practically starting a war. And moving it around the country, frozen and in relatively small quantities, is expensive and logistically difficult. Roy can barely sleep at night when he has half of a season's harvest relying on a compressor not to fail on his refrigerated trailer.

            In Mexico, huitlacoche still occurs naturally but with the frequency of 4-leaf clovers. (Women will walk miles of corn rows to gather a single basked of infected ears).

            I tried numerous times to contact Goya (which is based in NJ, family owned) to learn how and where they source sufficient quantities for canning, and to introduce them to Roy, but they were non-responsive.

            Bottom line for fresh huitlacoche: it doesn't come to you, you have to go to it!

            1. re: Veggo

              veggo, this is a fascinating bit of info you've given us.I saw a very damning film on Monsanto recently..... Because i am very chef-inquiry oriented, I wonder if you might discover some hidden huitlacoche source from some top U.S. chefs who are known to have used it and be interested in it. And specialty produce purveyors/distributors might be another source.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                veggo, i just phoned my latin chef/afficianado. he says that yes, the flash frozen product from Roy (Fla, right?) is the only flash frozen available in the u.s. that he knows of.(around $60 for 2 lb.) But he says that he believes there are mexican farmers specifically growing huitlacoche, not as an aberrant but as an intentional crop. I am going to research further and will post whatever else i come up with.