We use a lot of corn tortillas around the farm. We also love eggs. With little time to bake bread to have on hand for sandwiches during the growing season, corn tortillas have become a staple. Each of us has our own preferred assembly of them although they usually involve a fresh egg as the base protein. To mine, I will add a fried or hard-boiled egg, ½ of a frozen jalapeno (thawed and blistered along-side the egg while it is cooking) a little cheese and a large handful of greens, raw or cooked. Others go heavier on the cheese and lighter on the greens, some add salsa and refried beans if we have them. At any rate, it almost always starts with a tortilla.
I’ve considered the statistics and newsworthy articles that show the remarkable quantities of genetically modified (GM) corn that Americans consume each year, particularly if you eat fast food, processed or industrial food and if you eat meat, eggs or dairy products from animals that have been fed GM corn in their diets. If you drink beverages sweetened with corn syrup, eat candy or salty snacks, I’m sure that you have increased your chances of having a similar chemical composition to an ear of GM corn. As for us, I think that we are fairly low on the GM corn consumption list although I confess at times, to turning a blind ear when it comes to chocolate, cheese and some occasional salty snacks. We had been buying organic tortillas in quantity (genetically modified grains are forbidden under organic rules) but when the supply runs out it leaves us with the choice of no tortillas or tortillas from the local grocery that contained a long list of ingredients that really can just ruin a good appetite after you read them!
So I bought a tortilla press. It has in return brought us much joy in the form of delicious tortillas that are made with 3 simple ingredients: corn (masa harina), salt, water. A tortilla press can be easily found at most Mexican grocery stores and if not you can order them online. Mine is cast iron, works well, is easily stored and it cost under $15.00.
To make tortillas, you need to use masa harina and not regular cornmeal. Masa harina is corn that has been dried and then soaked in a lime solution (calcium hydroxide) and then dried again and ground to use for tortilla making. The lime soaking is a process that helps to loosen the hulls and aid in the process of creating the hominy (hull-less corn) that is then ground into the flour for making tortillas. You can also purchase masa harina at the Mexican grocery, however finding out if it is non-GMO corn may be a challenge. I have been using Bob’s Red Mill brand. Although it is not certified organic, a call to the very nice people at Bob’s Red Mill assured me that their policy is NO GMO’s. It is easier to find than organic tortillas and I’ve been very happy with the results so far.
The recipe on the bag says it will make 12 tortillas but we have found them easier to work with when they are thinner so we make 15 tortillas from one batch.
If you don’t have a tortilla press, I’m sure that these could be easily made with a rolling-pin. You may want to try that before you invest in a press. I jumped right in with the apparatus and I am happy with that!
I highly recommend cutting 2 nice sturdy sheets of plastic to roll the dough between. Most recipes suggest the plastic from a zip lock type food storage bag. It is heavy and it is washable so that they can be re-used. I cut the circles to size a little larger than the tortilla press. If you are using a pin, you probably don’t need to make the circles but I’d still use the plastic.
To make the tortillas, you will need:
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1/2 cup hot water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Put the masa harina into a bowl and add the salt. Stir in the water to make a good dough that sticks together with a spoon and then mix and knead with your hands for a few minutes until it forms a nice, round and smooth ball. Cover the ball with plastic and let it sit for an hour or so.Next, pinch off chunks of dough that are about the size of golf balls and shape them into nice balls. (About 15 of them)
Cook the tortillas as you make them, so have your pan ready, warm and oiled.
Set a sheet of plastic on the press and then set a slightly flattened ball onto the middle. ( I put them just a few hairs towards the hinge because of the way the press shifts them.) Cover with the second sheet of plastic and press until you see the edges coming to the edge of the press.
Remove the top sheet and use the bottom sheet to gently flip and peel the tortilla into your hand and then set it onto the hot pan for about 30 seconds. Flip and heat 15 more seconds and then remove to a plate. Cover them with a towel if you want to keep them warm. I just let them cool slowly if I am planning on storing them in the fridge.
Continue this process until all of the tortillas are done. It is easy to just get in a rhythm and press one while one is cooking, etc. Use them right away or store them in a bag and reheat them in a warm pan as needed.
Next recipe: Spinach Enchiladas! Yum!