When the colonial settler first came to the shores of this country, they found the Indians growing and eating corn. Corn is easy to grow and can be grown across the United States. One of the products that is made from corn is hominy. The Indians developed hominy probably to add variety to a diet that depended greatly on corn. Since the stored dried corn would not spoil, it was always available and could be made anytime of the year.
When I was a child and my mother served hominy, I thought I was eating something like a bean. Then I learned it was made from corn and of all things lye.
The methods for making hominy differs only as it relates to the different methods of obtaining the lye. The most rustic method is ingenious. Even the poorest family could make hominy.
So, how do you make hominy if you have no lye and no way to extract it from wood ash?
First you prepare the corn by simply shelling by rubbing the cobs of dried corn together so that the kernels comes off, then wash the kernels to remove parts of the cob and the silks. You take one gallon of dried corn to come out with two gallons of hominy.
Now we must figure out how to obtain the lye. The purpose of the lye is to remove the hard outside hull of the dried corn, leaving the edible kernel. The lye also loosens the dark eye so as to have a nice looking white or yellow hominy.
Collect a bucket of ashes, preferably hickory, or any kind of oak, but not cedar ashes. Sift the ashes to remove any large pieces of charcoal. Put a quart of ashes, three pints of dried, shelled corn, and a gallon of water in a big pot. Stir until the ashes have dissolved. Cook the mixture over a slow burner. It will look awful. Use only a wooden spoon as the lye will erode a metal one.
When the hulls are loosened, take the pot of hominy of the stove, rinse, and rinse the hominy through a sieve to remove the ash mud and wash away the hulls and eyes. This is a good outdoor activity.
The raw hominy is the results.
Another way to make lye is to take ash from the stove to an ash hopper. Water from rain would trickle through the ashes, leaching out the alkaline salts, commonly known as lye. The lye water was stored in a covered barrel, out of reach of children. When the lye was needed, a granite or stone cup was used to dip it out.
The lye made by the rain water was enough for daily use but when special projects called for lye such as soap making, the pioneers would pour buckets of water into the ash hopper to increase the output of the lye.
Today you can purchase liquid or concentrated lye.
Wash the hominy, put in clean water, boil for about twenty minutes, and rewash. Once the corn is tender, it is ready to be eaten. Season with salt, pepper, a little butter, and serve.
The nutritional value of hominy includes calcium, iron, magnesium, protein and niacin.
Jane Winterston ran a sporting house and restaurant in early Abilene, Kansas. One of the favorite dishes was hominy. It was a favorite of Will Bill Hickok.
“Melt a generous amount of butter in a frying pan. Add a cup of hominy and mix until covered with butter. Chop up pimentos as finely as possible. Add to hominy and salt and pepper to taste.”
So there you have it, the homely hominy.