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Mar 14, 2014 04:31 PM

sprouting corn before nixtamalizing for tortillas?

I've finally got the hang of going from corn kernels to delicious corn tortillas, but this morning as I was grinding up another batch of masa I started to wonder... what if I soak the corn first? what if I sprout it, even?

So I've got a couple of cups of corn soaking now, will probably nixtamalize half and make some tortillas, and sprout the other half. Just to see what happens.

Anyone have any experience in this realm? Any speculation? Ideas? Advice?


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  1. I know that it can be done. I have seen Sprouted Corn Tortillas for sale.
    You would still need to Nixtamalize before grinding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chefj

      I'm with you on all three counts. Very interested in all phases of my side-by-side comparison. In fact, after doing a bit of reading, I'm wishing I had soaked more corn so I could have several categories:

      soaked overnight
      soaked 24 hours
      soaked 48 hours

      I suppose I could just make smaller batches and still do that... we'll see how it shakes out.

      Thanks for your response!

    2. After 20 hours of soaking, 2 cups of dried corn has soaked up enough water to be 3 cups. I am nixtamalizing one cup now and soaking the other 2 cups for further experimentation. Will update tonight or tomorrow morning with post-nixtamalize results.

      Oh, and here's a photo of a soaked (on the left) and an unsoaked kernel. The tip and the germ are the most obvious bloaty areas.

      Stay tuned. ;-)

      1. I'm going to keep reporting my experiment results as I go along... years ago (perhaps a decade) when I first started this kernel to tortilla journey I could find almost no information. So even if I'm here whistling in the dark, I'm going to keep reporting in case someone else wonders too.

        All that said, results of 20 hour soak + nixtamalization are inconclusive. The kernels were definitely softer while I was doing the rinse-and remove outer layer step (I could easily fleck off the dark tip of the kernel with a fingernail--not true in unsoaked corn); I attribute this to the soaking. The part that remains a bit of a mystery is the ease of food processing. It was definitely easier and quicker, but I only processed 1 cup and I'm comparing to previous efforts which were double that. So, jury's still out.

        Absolutely no question that I will process in 1 cup batches from here on out. And I suspect I'll soak.

        Haven't cooked or tasted any tortillas yet; the masa's resting in the fridge.

        Hour 30: At least 2 cups (or more, if they kept absorbing water) of kernels still soaking. Frequent water changes, no signs of sprouting.

        3 Replies
        1. re: miss louella

          Thanks for writing these entries. I'm vicariously enjoying your voyage, even if I don't have anything to contribute.

          1. re: miss louella

            I guess I should report the taste results here. To recap. After 20+ hours of soaking in tap water, then an overnight soak in the post-boiled nixtamal water, grinding and resting in the fridge, I finally cooked up some torts.

            I had some (unsoaked) masa from the batch that kicked off this question, so I cooked that up so I could have a true side-by side comparison.

            Result: I'm a lousy scientist.

            Unfortunately I had added the amount of salt for 2 cups of corn when I had only used 1 cup. Still tasted fine, but it was impossible to do a meaningful blind test taste because the salt revealed at first bite which batch I was tasting.

            I was predisposed to like the soaked corn tortillas because I like the effect the soaking has on the grinding process. So take this with a grain of salt (not a teaspoon, trust me): I believe I preferred both the taste and the texture of the soaked tortillas.

            Given the time, I would soak for taste, texture, and ease of grinding. But if I wanted tortillas for tomorrow and hadn't pre-soaked my corn, I would for sure go ahead with unsoaked corn and I bet no one else would know.

          2. 46 hours of soaking and those kernels have really porked up. I have to run out, so don't have time to nixtamalize this morning. Maybe we'll have sprouts by tonight?

            ETA: The only place I could find any info about sprouting corn for eating was a raw foods site. They say to watch for tails to emerge and to eat then. (They also say the raw sprouted corn doesn't taste very good... no big surprise there.)

            The photo looks pretty much like the first one, but in real life all the kernels are dramatically plumper. There are cracks in some kernels but I don't know if that's growth or if they were cracked in the first place and it's just more evident now that they've plumped up.

            The unsoaked kernel on the right is the same one used in the first photo, fyi.

            PS ChrisofStumptown, it's nice to have your company on this voyage!

            3 Replies
            1. re: miss louella

              "ETA: The only place I could find any info about sprouting corn for eating was a raw foods site. They say to watch for tails to emerge and to eat then. (They also say the raw sprouted corn doesn't taste very good... no big surprise there.)"
              If you want to eat the sprouts, you should be aware that some seed/grains might contain pathogens that should be killed by a rinse in a weak bleach water solution.
              We do sprouts to eat and not all sources of seeds are the same.

              1. re: Raffles

                Thanks for the warning. The notion of using my teeth to do what that food processor is doing holds no appeal to me, but it's v good to have the warning out there for folks with tougher jaws than mine!

                1. re: miss louella

                  LOL, Miss L., we've never done corn sprouting before for eating, but we have done some pretty big beans....and we still have all our teeth! Enjoy!

            2. What are you using to grind the corn? I'd never really considered doing it myself, but it's bound to be much more delicious than storebought tortillas (none made fresh in my area, and even the masa has very slow turnover in the grocery).

              17 Replies
              1. re: ellabee

                I think the OP mentioned a Food Processor

                1. re: chefj

                  Ah; you're right, in a comment. Having no food processor, I'm back to reading the thread out of intellectual interest.

                  1. re: ellabee

                    You can use a blender, too, if it's a pretty powerful one.

                2. re: ellabee

                  hi there ellabee-- chefj is right, I'm using a food processor, but have read about people using a meat grinder. (Even bought one of the clamp-to-the-counter-and-grind-by-hand kinds when I was in Mexico--because I specialize in extremely heavy souvenirs :-). But I haven't tried it yet.

                  ETA: I really love the fresh ground masa I'm making, but also was much happier with the tortillas from MASECA before I got it together to do the kernel thing. My path so far has been: grocery store bought, maseca, masa preparado from hispanic grocery stores, now kernel to home made masa. Each step along the way has been a dramatic leap in flavor.

                  1. re: miss louella

                    If you ever get around to using that meat grinder you lugged home, you will need to grind the nixtamal twice. What come out the first time through is rather coarse. The second grind yield beautiful, velvety masa

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Oh, thanks so much for this info!!! Did it take a lot of muscle to grind through the corn?

                      Have you done both the food processor and the food grinder methods? If so, was the twice-ground meat grinder masa smoother than what you got from the fp?

                      Also, do you flick off the ends of the corn post-nixtamalization and pre-grind? (I do not have the patience for that or for removing the skins from garbanzo beans before I make humus.)

                      1. re: miss louella

                        It takes a little muscle but nothing extraordinary.

                        The meat grinder is definitely much smoother than a food processor. If you think about how masa was originally made...on a basically had 2 pieces of lava rock (the metate & the mano), each with uneven pits, holes and nooks, grinding against the corn. This actually makes the absolutely best and smoothest masa, but it *IS* a huge amount of work and unless you're used to using a metate, you probably won't be happy. With the meat grinder, the lava rock/basalt gets replaced with the metal gears/teeth of the meat grinder. They're still uneven, so you still get a reasonably good masa from it. The first time through the grinder just breaks everything into small pieces, the second time through is really finishes up the job .

                        With both the metate and the meat grinder, you essentially have a mashing and grinding motion. That is not the case with a food processor where you have a more centrifugal mincing/blending action. The action of the food processor blades is different than the action of the metate or food processor.

                        I do remove the garbanzo skins before making hummus (1 tsp of baking soda in the cooking water helps immensely)...I do not take the pedicle out of the corn kernel unless it's pozole corn - which is different than masa corn - and I want the kernel to "bloom".

                        I've attached some photos of grinding nixtamalized corn with a meat grinder.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                 looks like more than half the photos didn't make it. Let me try again

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            aMAZing! Thanks for all the good info... will put me ahead of the game a bit when I pull out that grinder. (Which you *know* is gonna happen soon!)

                        2. re: DiningDiva

                          By the way, DiningDiva, if you put the corn through a meat grinder, when do you add the water? Thanks!!

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            DiningDiva, do you soak your corn before you nixtamalize it?

                            1. re: miss louella

                              Not typically.

                              Normally, I'd put the dried corn into a non-reactive pot, add water and cal and bring to a boil. The corn kernels will turn a vivid color of yellow due to the chemical reaction with the cal and heat. I boil/simmer for a while (I want to say about 20 minutes, but I'm not sure that's right) and then let is sit, usually overnight. The next day the corn is drained and rinsed really well, then it gets ground. I haven't made masa from scratch in quite a while, so I'm having to pull this method out of the recesses of my mind. I've got a tortillaria with really good masa and a Mexican market with very good masa so I usually just buy masa para tortillas when I need it.

                              I do not typically, nor have I needed to, add water when grinding nixtamal. There is usually 1) enough liquid still clinging to the kernels, or 2) the kernels absorbed enough liquid while soaking that they are still moist.

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Thanks! Next I'm going to have to do a blind taste test between my masa and the masa preparado I can get around here. (Though it might break my heart if I find out people (or, the horrors--*I*) prefer the store-bought masa.)

                                1. re: miss louella

                                  Just be sure you know the masa terminology in your area.

                                  Where I live masa preparada is usually for tamales and is somewhat coarser in the grind. Additionally, preparada can mean that it has added fat to it, which the masa for tamales would need. Masa para tortillas is, as the name implies, for tortillas and is ground much more finely.

                                  Just make sure that if what you're buying is labeled masa preparada that it's for tortillas and not tamales.

                            2. re: DiningDiva

                              DiningDiva, you were soooo right! I loved the masa made with the meat grinder, it almost seems like it tasted cornier. Like you, I had no need for additional water. Thanks for the tips!