Hominy is one of those foods that doesn’t make it into the cover-photos of many fancy food magazines. It may have a better chance than chitlins, but not by a whole lot. I know, though, that hominy is delicious, which is saying a lot about a food I’ve only ever eaten canned.
It never occurred to me to try to grow the right kind of corn and make my own hominy until this past week, when I was reading at Indian Country Today, in an article written by Anna Jefferson, about an heirloom corn being grown out for seed at Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, for the Osage Nation.
Passing seeds down through the generations is a tradition of the Osage, and the Center has been gathering up seeds for varieties of corn and other crops that have been saved through the years, to help preserve and promote these important elements of Osage culture.
In the article “Revitalizing a Traditional Seed to Revitalize Osage Culture,” Vann Bighorse, director of the Center, said that this year one variety that will be grown out for seed is “Roan Horse Brown Corn,” a variety that is used for hominy. This bit of the article is what really caught my attention:
“This is the beginning phase of stock piling the grain for tribal use. The Cultural Center wants to be able to distribute the grain, which is used for hominy, to any family who has a feast and desires to prepare traditional food.”
Reading about the effort to increase an essential, traditional food so that there would be enough for feast days made me go look online for how to make hominy at home. Luckily, Mother Earth News came through for me, with a description excerpted from the book “Beautiful Corn” by Anthony Boutard.
Hominy corn varieties usually have short, wide seeds, like Hickory King (or Roan Horse Brown!), and they are usually either yellow or white. However, besides learning that making hominy is going to take some patience (HOURS are involved) and that using pickling lime instead of lye in the process will boost calcium levels in the hominy and enhance the Frito-like flavor while keeping the sodium levels lower, I also found that other kinds of corn would work — including popcorn!
Anyone who knows me at all will also know that I grow popcorn pretty much every year. Last summer my little plot of popcorn produced abundantly, and I have plenty of dried kernels with which to experiment. As soon as I can find some pickling lime, there will be some homegrown, homemade hominy on my menu.
For this garden year, I plan to switch out from popcorn to a variety that is shaped more like the traditional hominy corns. Hickory King grows too large for the small beds in my front-yard-garden, and that is part of the reason I usually grow popcorn; many varieties are small enough to not overwhelm the yard.
I have grown a parching corn before, Supai Red, and it didn’t grow too tall. The seed-shape matches the typical hominy corn shape, and I have some seeds still in the fridge from that packet. If there are enough seeds in the packet and they grow well, there will be hominy for a feast day next fall or winter at my house, too.