Pozole: A soup without borders

I have a guest post today from Laura Elliott, an American expat living in Mexico City. Her new blog is called American Chilanga, and it’s about her adventures in the city that we both love. In this post, she writes about her mother’s pozole, a warm, comforting dish that’s only slightly related to Mexico City’s version.

Photo by Laura Elliott

Southwestern style pozole, photo by Laura Elliott

The rainy season has arrived in Mexico City, and cravings for a nice bowl of soup tend to accompany me on these soggy afternoons. Lately, I’ve been longing for pozole — a pre-Colombian hominy, pork, and chile based stew. In Mexico City, it’s served with garnishes of shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, dried oregano, pepper flakes, chicharrón, tostadas and fresh limes. Delicious and satisfying, it’s not quite like the dish I had with my family on Christmas Eves, while growing up in southern Colorado.

My mom’s pozole is always served with warm flour tortillas on the side and cheese melted on top. She also stirs Southwestern green chiles into the broth.

There are actually many ways to make pozole, which vary region by region, both in Mexico and throughout the southwest United States (where it’s often spelled with an ‘s,’ posole). My mother created her own recipe, modifying the instructions she found on the back of a package of dried hominy, and tweaking the dish over the years.

I never questioned our Christmas Eve tradition as a young girl; we often left some pozole for Santa alongside the milk and cookies. Now I consider it a special detail to my background, which I use to try to convince my friends in Mexico that despite my blond hair, green eyes, mainly German descent and foreign accent, I am clearly more Mexican than they think. I’m not sure if they believe me.

Photo by Laura Elliott

Photo by Laura Elliott

Nevertheless, my mom says pozole “seemed to fit our family.” She must have been right. The dish has been what’s requested and expected ever since it replaced my grandmother’s clam chowder over 25 years ago. The addition of roasted Hatch New Mexico Green Chiles is a special treat — my mom always keeps a supply of them in the freezer, as they are not available for sale year round.

Eager to recreate a memory of home, I recently set out to make my mother’s pozole. The ingredients filled my kitchen with earthy aromas, blending together as the soup cooked. It was hard not to try a spoonful, just to make sure the dish wasn’t missing anything… and then maybe one more spoonful after that.

More than three hours later, once the soup was done, I dipped a tortilla into the broth. The first bite warmed me up instantly. The hominy was soft and savory, and the slow-cooked meat fell apart in my mouth. Hearty and smoky, this soup seemed rooted to the land.

My mother’s Pozole Recipe

Pozole is fairly simple, but it takes time. If planning to have it for dinner, you’ll probably want to start this in the morning or the day before, especially if using dried hominy, which needs to soak first and can then take from three to three and half hours to cook before you start to add the other ingredients.

Make sure the kernels have been nixtamalized, which is the process of boiling the corn with calcium hydroxide, which adds essential vitamins and nutrients. If buying hominy in the U.S., it has usually already gone through this process. You can also find it canned, but my mom would not recommend it! In Mexico, I found nixtamalized hominy in bags with water sold in the cheese section of the supermarket. You might find dried kernels that are simply plain maize, so double check the package or ask the vendor.

Ingredients

2 cups dried white hominy* (see note)
6 cups water (to start)
1 pound lean pork shoulder, cubed

½ cup minced white onion

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon each: dried oregano, red chile powder, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cumin 

1 cup sliced roasted green chiles (Hatch New Mexico if you can, but Anaheim or Poblano also work fine. Use canned roasted chiles if that’s what you can find.)

Directions

Prepare the dried hominy as you would dried beans: soak it overnight and rinse it before adding it to a pot of about six cups of water. Bring water to a boil and then simmer until the kernels start to burst open. (If using hominy from a can or bag that is packaged in water, you can skip the soaking, but still cook it until the kernels start to open before adding the other ingredients; it will just take less time. In this case you won’t need to start with the full 2 cups. Try 1 ½ cups instead.)

Add pork, onion, garlic and spices. Simmer for several hours — mine took between three and four — adding water and additional spices according to taste. Be sure to simmer thoroughly after adding water to avoid a diluted taste. (You want all the flavors to taste as if they’ve melded together and cooked for a long while.) Add the green chile about a half an hour before serving. You may lose some heat and flavor if you cook the chiles too long.

Serve with your choice of cheeses and warm flour tortillas.

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One Response to “Pozole: A soup without borders”
  1. Nancy

    Mmmm, I love all pozole. I am looking forward to trying this version.

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