How to Cook Posole (Prepared Hominy)
I’m happy to address again one of the most confusing name systems in English and Spanish. Sometimes we share elements of our cultures across borders and they morph into something new. The best thing to do when you are talking about living cuisines is to relax and not get too caught up in what is “authentic.”
When dried corn is cooked and then soaked in cal (calcium hydroxide, or lime), the skins on the kernels loosen, and with a little rubbing and rinsing, they float away. The treated corn that is left is called nixtamal. If you had not treated the corn with the cal and tried to cook it, you would be very frustrated—even several days later. The miracle of nixtamal is that the corn not only cooks properly but also releases the niacin that it contains, making the treated corn healthier and easier to digest than the whole grain.
In Mexican shops in the U.S., you’ll see corn, but unless you are in specific parts of the Southwest, it likely has not been treated with cal. Many folks just getting started in Mexican cooking have tried to cook this untreated corn, and the results have been a mess. From my experience in Mexico, you can buy nixtamalized corn in some markets, in the refrigerator section of specialty stores, or most commonly in a can. Native Americans took the nixtamal a step further and dried it again, giving us prepared hominy, or posole. It’s really nothing more than dried nixtamal.
In Mexico, the corn is called maiz. The finished dish, which is a rich stew with the cooked corn added, is called pozole. In the United States, the grain is called posole and the finished dish is also called posole. Now relax and get over all of this name calling and make something delicious! You wouldn’t believe how much this conversation upsets people! I say call it what you like.
To cook our White Corn Posole, soak it in water to cover generously for at least 6 hours and then drain it and discard the water. Fill a large pot with fresh water, add the posole and a cut-up yellow or white onion, and put the pot over medium heat. Bring the water to a simmer and cook. Like many foods, you can cook posole at a higher heat, but you risk the kernels falling apart, which isn’t a good thing in this case. The water the posole cooks in isn’t particularly good once the posole is done, so I discard the water and add the posole to whatever dish I’m making. I know others who use it. Soaked posole cooked at a gentle simmer should take about 2 hours. Use a lid to control the intensity of the boil.
Two cups of dried hominy will yield about 6 cups of cooked posole. Store covered in the refrigerator, with the cooking liquid, for about 5 days. You can also freeze it.