Critical Factors for First Time Hominy Makers
I had several failures before my first success at making hominy. There are various ways of making hominy. Some use high pH, some boil the corn, some take a long time. The recipe on the main page and the critical factors below detail an easy method based on moderation:
• A moderately high pH of 12.5
• A moderate temperature of 190°F (a slow simmer)
• A moderate amount of time: bring to a boil, soak two hours off-heat, then a two hour simmer.
1. Sort through your dry corn and pick out any broken pieces. Broken pieces soften much faster than the whole kernels and make it harder to determine the point where corn turns into hominy.
2. The ideal pH of the alkaline solution used to remove the hulls is near pH 12.5. Much lower, and it takes forever. Much higher, and the process goes too fast and dissolves not just the hull but turns the kernel to mush. The pH scale is lograthmic: a pH of 12 is 10 times stronger than pH 11, a pH of 13 is 10 times stronger than pH 12.
3. To determine if the hominy is done, you have to RINSE, and bite into about 6 kernels. Some kernels will finish much faster than others. As a rule of thumb, the hominy is finished when 10% of the kernels are over-cooked and starting to dissolve, 10% are still slightly crunchy inside, and 80% are the desired al dente gel. (You'll finish the cooking after removing the kernels from the alkaline solution and the crunchy ones will soften in your cooking liquid long before most become too soft. )
To rinse for tasting, I use a plastic stirring spoon to put about 6 kernels in a small bowl with as little liquid as possible. I add cold water to the bowl then dump the kernels into my hand and rinse under running water for a few seconds. There's no need to eat the kernels, just bite into them and spit them out. Unless you've added way too much alkaline, they will taste like hominy with no bite to your tongue.
4. The corn needs to be soaked (like beans: overnight or a quick soak), and then cooked at a very slow simmer (≈ 190° F). This helps cook the kernels more evenly. At 190°, there is almost no movement or bubbles in the water. If the temperature is a little low, it will just take longer. If the temperature is too high, the kernels will cook less evenly.
5. Near the end of the process, you'll need to check the kernels every 15 minutes. The process proceeds very slowly for the first hour, but speeds up near the end.
6. Don't worry about the hulls loosening. If the pH is near 12.5, most of the hulls will dissolve and the rest will easily wash off in small pieces. The doneness test per #3 above is what's important.
7. As a first timer, don't worry about the tips (nibs) or the corn-germ coming off the kernels. They're not important either way. If the tips remain, some may come loose during the final cooking but it's only a small cosmetic issue.