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January 30, 2014 14:00 pm | | HOME | BLOG HOME | ARCHIVES |
Pati Jinich Dried corn husks

Corn has been a central part of the Mexican diet and culture since ancient times. Not only is it eaten fresh in its many varieties, its dried kernels are used for an infinity of things, including masa to make everything from tortillas to tamales. It’s husks are also treasured as an ingredient to wrap and cook food in. Tamales, of course, have remained the wrapped and cooked food par excellence in Mexico. Methods have varied from steaming, to cooking over comales or the open fire, to cooking in underground pits.

Now, the use of fresh or dried leaves for wrapping and cooking foods is not exclusive to Mexico. Grape leaves were used since ancient Greece and banana leaves in the Philippines, to name some. In Mexico, there has been a large variety of ingredients for this use like banana leaves, avocado leaves, chaya, hoja santa leaves, large spinach leaves and even some exotic flower leaves. Still corn husks, fresh or dried, have been and remain a crucial one.

Corn husks not only help keep the food in place, they also keep it moist, seal in the flavor, and impart their own essence, fragrance and taste. The flavor and aroma vary depending on whether the corn husks are fresh and tender, fresh and mature or dried.

To assemble, fresh corn husks are carefully taken from ears of corn, washed and used to wrap some types of tamales, usually those made from fresh corn like the famous Michoacán uchepos. However, most tamales that use corn husks use them dried, as they can be stored for a long time – as long as they are not stored in a sunny or moist area – and are available year round.

To use dried corn husks, they need to be soaked for about 10 minutes in warm water to make them pliable, thus preventing tears or breaks and making them more flexible for folding around the masa. I usually start soaking them as I begin to make my tamales, and they are ready by the time I am ready to form my tamales. Nothing happens if you soak them for hours on end. The husks are also used to line the tamaleras or steamers to keep the water away and steady the tamales.

Corn husks are most commonly sold dried, stacked together in plastic packaging. In Mexico, you will see them in abundance hanging from market stands. They are becoming more available in the U.S., as well. Look for them in the Latin aisles of your supermarket, at your local Hispanic or international market, or online. If you happen to get more than you need, you can give some to your kids, for them to fashion puppets or dolls…

 


Comments

Pati,
I just purchased your cookbook, beautifully done and so excited to try meals I have never tried. I do a large amount of canning including corn. Do you know the process to properly prepare and dry the corn husk? I try to save money anywhere I can. This would be so helpful when doing 100 tamalies.

I’m so happy I watch RMPBS and found your show. You are a breath of fresh air, and so delightful to watch.

Hi Teri,
Thank you so much for buying my cookbook! The process of drying corn husks is beyond simple: Simply remove them from the corn cob, place them on a mat or large baking dish and set out to dry in a sunny and dry place. If the temperature is nice outside, you can just leave them outside. Before you store them, make sure they are completely dry.
Thank you for watching my show!



I started much too late in the day at my first attempt to make tamales…….I’ve already soaked the corn husks, can I just put them in a bag in the refrigerator until tomorrow? Thanks for you input!

Yes! If they dry up overnight, soak them in warm water, again, for a few minutes when you are ready to make the tamales.



May corn husks be used from domestic field corn rather than sweet corn?

There are lots of husks available after a harvester has gone thru a plot of field corn. Not being a farmer, I am concerned that MAYBE farmers use a spray poison on the crops to kill pests that would stay on the husks. Would they do the same with a plot of sweet corn?

Would it be a different story if I found dried corn husks for the purpose of cooking packaged in Mexico?

Lots of Corny Questions :-)
Thank you.


Im,concerened that the corn husk my parents used for tamales were not fresh. they were stored from last yrs xmas . They had black spots on the edges looked like mold . which we have alot around the house. I quiestioned but they just looked at me like if I was nuts. They dont realize how bad mold is. any info on this can husk have mold after storage

HM. Yes. Dried corn husks should be kept tightly sealed in a dry (not moist) and not sunny area of your kitchen. If some of them have discoloration or aren’t even, that is ok, just natural differences. But if all of them seem to have brown or black moldy spots then I would go back to the store and complain, and get a fresh new bag.




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