Volume IV, No. 2, Winter 1976
by Kyra Gibson
Photos by Doug Sharp
While it was cooking, the mess in the pan looked like the worst batch of mud pies any little girl ever made, but it turned out to be fluffy white, mouth-watering hominy. We've described making hominy with lye (Vol. I, No. 3, p. 38), but Ella Dunn by-passes the refined lye to use its natural raw source--ashes out of the fireplace.
She simply rots the ashes so that they're just like strong lye. She said, "It's as fast as lye and I think it's better hominy--maybe because I've always been used to it. Besides, you can't hardly buy lye any more."
She sifts the ashes as you would flour to remove the large pieces of charcoal and rocks. She warned us not to use cedar ashes but to use hickory or any kind of oak.
After sifting she puts the ashes in a porcelain or enameled pan and dampens them so that they will rot. She covers the pan and leaves it for about a week until the ashes are ready to use.
To make hominy with these ashes, she spoons out about a quart of ashes to approximately three pints of corn. She puts the ashes in a big enameled pot and pours about a gallon of water over this, stirring until it is pretty well dissolved. Ella told us, "You don't want to put too much water. Too much would make it too weak and take away the value of your lye." Then she adds the corn and cooks the mixture which looked like thick bubbling mud.
The kind of corn Ella uses is Hickory King. Ella recalled, "I've always called it Hickory Cane, but it's King."
She prefers this white corn over the yellow variety.
The purpose of the lye mixture is to remove the hard outside hull, leaving the edible kernel. The lye also loosens the dark eyes which are not appetizing to look at. It is necessary to keep stirring the hot ash water mixture to prevent the sediment and hulls from baking in the bottom of the pan. It is also necessary to use a wooden spoon, for the lye in the ashes will eat up a metal one.
When the hulls are loosened, she takes the pot of hominy off the stove and rinses and re-rinses the hominy to take off the ash mud and wash away the hulls and eyes.
It is advisable to take the pan of cooked corn and ashes outside to rinse in a big sieve with the hose to dispose of the muddy ashes. While rinsing, she rubs the hominy through her fingers to take off all the eyes and hulls.
The result is raw hominy. We sampled a handful. It tasted like hominy all right, only better than you could buy in a store.
This hominy now has to be cooked until tender to serve. Ella cans much of hers by putting a teaspoon of salt in each quart jar and filling the jar only two-thirds full of hominy because it will still swell some more. Then she fills the jar to 1/2 inch of the top with water and seals it. She pressures it at 10 pounds pressure for an hour and a half to two hours.
Ella doesn't think this way of making hominy is any harder to do than with lye and she sure enjoys the finished product. So did we.
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