Introducing… my new electric corn grinder.

I saw the Nixtamatic in the window at Casa Boker a few months ago, but I convinced myself that I didn’t need it. I didn’t operate a tortillería. I didn’t have a large family. Was I really going to make fresh corn tortillas every day, just for Crayton and I?

Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I Googled “Nixtamatic,” and saw that Steve Sando had one, and he’d created a video of him using it. It was mesmerizing, watching the machine’s metal plates squeak round and round, churning out squiggly bits of masa. He only had to add a bit of water to the dough, and boom. It was done.

Why was I hesitating here? Sure, corn tortillas were available on every corner in Mexico City, but if I ever left Mexico — heaven forbid — I’d be stuck with the carboard-tasting American versions. And I just had this yearning to make my own tortillas. With my corn that I purchased. Who cares if I didn’t make them every day. Even once a week would be fine. I could do that.

When Crayton asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I told him, “A Nixtamatic!”

(Well, first I said, “No, honey, seriously, you don’t have to get me anything.”)

So we went last weekend and picked it out together. It wasn’t cheap — about 3,100 pesos, or around $250 USD. I refrained from telling Crayton, “Yes, but this is an investment,” because he hates it when I use the word investment for something we’re buying. (Him: “It’s not an investment because it loses value the minute we buy it.”) The high price meant this was my birthday, anniversary and maybe Christmas present rolled into one.

But I really do plan to use it a lot. Tortillas, tlacoyos, gorditas, sopes — the masa-based possibilities are endless.

Hopefully I’ll have an “Aaagh! Homemade tortillas with the Nixtamatic!” post for you next week. The manual is three pages long and seems easy enough to understand. I’m crossing my fingers.

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36 Responses to “Introducing… my new electric corn grinder.”
  1. Lindsay

    Congrats, and enjoy!!!!

  2. Maura

    Oh. My. God. You are totally going to do a demo of this for me when I come visit you next month and I will gladly take video for you if you let me try it out. ;) I guarantee you I will want one after playing with it (lies…I already want one!). Trust me you and Crayton will both be glad you have this tool when you come back to the U.S. and realize you can’t get good handmade tortillas very many places!

  3. muybuenocookbook

    WOW! You go girl! If you make a video you might want to block some of that loud squeaking noise. OUCH! I can only image how fresh your tortillas, sopes, and gorditas will be. Keep us posted!

  4. Paola

    How exiting! I would love to have one myself, can’t wait to read your next post about it!

  5. Matt

    Livin’ the Mexican High Life.

  6. Romina

    El nombre esta chistoso. NIXTAMATIC mira mi nixtamatic :p

  7. chefyourself

    uy! Que envidia! So, will you be telling us how to make the masa for tortillas, gorditas,sopes (btw, what’s the diff between a sope & gordita?) and tamales? Porque, chica, tengo planes de hacer tamales.

    • Lesley

      Yep, I’ll share the masa recipes! The masa is the same for tortillas, gorditas and sopes. Tamale masa is slightly coarser — you can actually make it in the food processor. Diff between a gordita and a sope: the names change depending on where you are in Mexico, but here in DF a sope is a flat, slightly thickened tortilla with raised edges. Diameter tends to be slightly smaller than your average saucer. You top it with beans and cheese, and maybe lettuce. It’s cooked on a comal.

      The gordita is pretty much what it’s name (literally “little fatty”) implies: a small, slightly rounded, crispy little snack, made from masa that’s been fried and then sliced open to add condiments — chicharrón and cheese are my two faves. You can also mix the condiments in the masa itself and then fry it.

  8. Joan

    Woo-hooo! Good for you! Now you are a Nixtamatic owner.

    You know, Diana Kennedy has one too so you are in good company!

  9. Sara

    I don’t know what all these foods are; so I’m really looking forward to seeing you make them. Your public awaits!

  10. Obet

    Mmmmmh…. a vitamina T factory.

  11. gloria

    Now that is very nice. I would like one too, but I know I won’t use it very often. I just make my masa and use the tortilla flattener. Congrats and Happy late Birthday. Enjoy your new play toy.:)

  12. Jay C.

    That’s killer! But how does the grinder differ from other grinders? It looks similar to a meat grinder – how are the discs different? And can you fashion one out of common components here in the USA?

    Of course, I hate to be the one to bring the elation down, but one of the biggest problems in the United States (at least my part of the United States) is the lack of proper corn, much less masa. Even if I had a masa grinder, I have no idea where I would find the proper corn to grind!

    • Lesley

      Jay: I’m not entirely sure how they’re different, but I do know the Nixtamatic makes a separate meat grinder. I’m guessing it has to do with the discs — you need a really fine grind for tortilla dough.

      Supposedly you can get dried corn online. Here’s a link to the type you’d use — http://store.gourmetsleuth.com/corn-maize-blanco-5lb-P235.aspx

      Gourmet Sleuth says it’s pozole corn, which my cooking class instructor says we *shouldn’t* use to make tortillas, because it tastes slightly different. But the treating process is the same, and you’d still get a pliable corn dough. Looks like they also sell dried yellow corn, but I’d be hesitant to use it, because it looks too much like popcorn corn. You want a dried corn kernel that’s kind of flat and plump, not small and teardrop-shaped.

      I know Rancho Gordo has started selling real corn tortillas (not the crappy American corn) in SF, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they started offering dried heirloom corn for sale, to make tortillas with. I’ll let you know if I see anything else about it.

  13. EL CHAVO!

    And I thought my $20 hand mill was an investment!

    • Lesley

      El Chavo: Lovely. :-) There’s definitely value in manual labor. I also dig your Kitchen Aid mixer in the background — I have one just like it.

  14. Don Cuevas

    Will it grind cornmeal, as in “cornbread”?

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

    • Lesley

      I’m not sure. Do you mean grinding dried corn, to turn it into cornmeal? The manual doesn’t specifically say… only thing it specifically warns me against is putting my fingers in the motor.

      • Don Cuevas

        Yes; I should have been more precise. I would like to be able to grind dry corn into cornmeal.

        Lesley said:
        “only thing it specifically warns me against is putting my fingers in the motor.”

        Or operating it underwater?

        Saludos,
        Don Cuevas

        • Herlinda

          Sr. cuevas esa maquina muele bien fino el maiz ya cocinado para hacer tamales soy de panama y nosotros cocinas el maiz para que se hablande y luego lo molemos en la maquina esa manual?

  15. Katie

    Mostly, it’s the name of the machine I love. I feel like it could be marketed alongside washing machines and refrigerators.

  16. YayaOrchid

    Wonderful gift! Hope you had a wonderful Birthday! I can only imagine how fresh tasting your masa based creations will be. Feeling machine envy, LOL!

  17. Lesley

    Thanks everyone, for the well wishes! I’m buying corn probably Friday… we’ll see how this goes.

  18. S@sha

    Hey Lesley,

    I agree with the comment that said the best thing about it is the name. And it’s totally retro graphics which make it look vintage. I have to disagree with you about the lack of good available tortillas in the U.S. though. Move to the right part of the country and there are tortillerías all over the place. Some in Mexican markets and some freestanding. So, plan accordingly and move to NM or California or some other area where the Mexican population has swelled over the last decade, and you’ll be fine! And for the record, we have a lot of panaderías that make good pan dulce too.

  19. Brian Park

    Very Cool… I want one. I’m in San Diego… Where did you get yours down there? I’m ready to make a short road trip to get it in Mexico.

    • Lesley

      Hi Brian: I got mine at Casa Boker in Mexico City. I’m not sure if they’re sold near the border. You may want to call the Nixtamatic folks and find out. (They’re on the web.) I do know they’ll ship to the U.S., for the same price as the machine.

  20. fred b block

    I am in the Philippines cooking, grinding using the traditional hand corn grinder I bought in San Luis Rio del Colorado ,Sonora, Mexico. I grow Epozate( for frijoles), use yellow field corn(small kernals) with Cal and cook and grind, use a cormal, the works. I grow jalepenos, cayenne and some other chiles.There were 100,000 Mexicans who once migrated to this wonderful country a few hundred years ago. Except for some rare time I never find folks that have any knowledge of the wide use of tortillas etc. Mexican introduce Ceviche…called Kinilaw here. They care not where is originated. I like to own a Nixtamatic, but how can I get it here?

    • Lesley

      Hi Fred: I’m not sure if the company will ship to the Philippines or not. If you speak Spanish, you may want to call the number listed on their website. I do know they ship to the United States, for the same price as the machine (~$325 USD). Hope that helps!

      • fred b block

        I will be in Costa Rica in the Fall of 2013 and probably be returning to the Philippines via L.A. where I can follow up. Thanks again Lesley!

  21. fred b block

    nice site

    • joshinph

      Hi Fred, I am also in philippines, I am having a hard time finding CAL, can you point me in the right direction to find it, because without it im kinda lost…lol

      • Lesley

        Maybe try the hardware store? That’s where I’ve also seen it in Mexico. It’s also called calcium oxide or lime.

      • fred b block

        Hi Joshinph, I get all the CAL from Bayawan, where Cal is produced alongside Calcium oxide. Also, at some stores near our central market in Dumaguete…it is know as APOG….used for making cement. Check me on FB as I make lots of authentic Mexican dishes at our Duchess de Dauin here on the beach across from the divers paradise of APO ISLAND.

  22. Herlinda

    Yo soy de Panamaa,, nosotros hacemos tamales .. com el maiz pilado otros le dicen trillados que no esta el grano entero sino esta en pedacitos de ahi lo lavamos bien y lo cocinamos hasta que hablande de ahi lo dejamos refrescar para despues molerlo en la maquina manual que se toma una eternidad y la espalda que te quiere hablar de tanto darle a esa manigueta jaaja.. mi pregunta es esa misma maquina que ud compro muele el maiz ya cocinado fino? sale como una masa que al tocarla no se le siente pero es que ni un granito que la maquina no alla molido?? si es asi por famor mandeme a decir tan pronto lea ese mensaje para poderla comprar a otra cosa vivo en alabama cerca de georgia sabe quien vende esa maquina? muchas gracias

    • Yadira

      Hola Herlinda,

      Vi tu email con tu pregunta de la maquina pero no se si te contestaron o no; a lo mejor porque esta en Espanol, no se. Pero yo tambien quisiera conseguir la maquina ya que yo hago y vendo tamales panamenos aqui en Washington y tengo que usar la manual que toma demasiado de tiempo y especialmente por el volumen que hago. Lei arriba que ella dio el nombre de la compania y busque su pagina web y consegui el telefono asi que pienso llamar a Mejico a la compania a ver primero si se puede moler el maiz ya cocido como nosotros hacemos o si tiene que ser el maiz crudo que los Mejicanos usan y si me dicen que si se puede, entonces les preguntare si lo pueden enviar a Washington. Esperon que digan que si porque me duele el hombro cada vez que utilizo el manual.

      Saludos,
      Yadira

    • Leticia

      Estimada Herlinda,
      Ya leí su inquietud con respecto al molino manual que usted usa para moler su trillado maíz.
      Pero la pregunta que tengo para usted es si su molino muele el maiz trillado bien fino como la masa Maseca. Porque yo soy salvadoreña y hago tortillas para papá de Maseca y quedan super suaves y flexibles. Busco un molino manual que muela el maíz bien fino o tan fino como la harina Maseca. Si el suyo hace ese trabajo me gustaría que por favor me escribiera, ya sea contestandome por este medio o a letitianavarrete@yahoo.com y me dijera el tipo de molino que es y donde lo consiguió.
      Estoy bien urgida de esta información porque el maíz que usa Maseca es malo y por eso quiero usar el orgánico para hacer mis propias tortillas organicas.
      Mil gracias, anticipadamente
      Atentamente,
      Leticia

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