Grandmothers Tortillas and My Corn …..

I remember being very young and living with my grandparents. My mother died when I was 3. It was hard being me back then. Dad being dad had to work, taking care of me was a little to much for him, so I was raised by my grandparents. Lets just say I will keep this simple. So we will leave it like that.

I remember sitting at the table and watching grandma make tortillas. Grandpa did all the cooking except for the flour tortillas, grandma made those. I saw her get a few handfuls of this and a handful of that, added this, added that, she added one more thing and then the tortillas were being rolled and cooked. Seemed like her hands were the things that measured everything, mixed, cut, separated, rolled and cooked. I remember her giving me a ball of dough and what looked like a piece of a broom handle that had been cut, it was my turn to learn. At first the dough was thrown out when I was done. But after a while of my playing I learned by watching her and my little bit of dough was cooked and I got to eat it. There was no praise only the tortilla with a bit of butter. She only made so many tortillas enough to last two people for so long. This was our bread, grandpa’s and mine. Grandma was a diabetic and did not eat them.

She used a eye plate of an old wood burning stove to cook them on. I was given a stove burner cover by a friend that I use to cook mine on. Grandpa used it to heat tamales that he made during the Christmas season. You should have a well seasoned cast iron skillet to cook them on, the skillet has to be fairly hot, or hotter than I would want a non-stick skillet to get and for the length of time also. That is the only reason I say a iron skillet, you could use a iron pancake pan, they make great crepe too and are perfect for tortillas.

Flour Tortillas
3 cups flour + a little more for kneading and rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt or so, just salt to taste,
1/2 cup lard
1 cup water

Mix flour, baking powder, salt. Cut in lard till the size of peas. Add water, mix until it comes into a ball. Flour your board and knead dough till it becomes smooth. Divide dough into 24 balls. Cover with towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Roll dough into ball and slightly flatten between hands.

Start heating skillet. It should be hot enough by the time you roll your first tortilla. When you first start rolling the flattened dough, half forward and then half back towards you, turn 1/8 of a turn and again half forward and half back. Use enough flour to keep it from sticking. Keep rolling and turning until you have gone all around the dough. You should have a circle or real close to one. You will learn a little every time you make these. Once you have gone around once then you start in again but this time you will flip the tortilla and then roll it again back and forth, then turn them a quarter turn until they are about 1/8″ thick. When you place the tortilla in the skillet it should be very quickly start making small to medium air bubbles. Bust the larger ones if you can. Flip in about 20 to 30 seconds then cook the second side for about 20 seconds remove from skillet. I use my hand to flip the tortilla, you may need a spatula to turn it if your hands cannot handle the heat. There should be golden brown spots on both sides of the tortilla. Keep them warm as you are cooking by wrapping the m in towels. Once you get started you will be able to cook and roll them out at the same time. But again you will learn every time you make these. I can see the first time making these to be a little bit fustrating, especially if you have never seen them made. If you have, you are a step ahead.

My Corn Tortillas

I don’t remember grandma or grandpa making corn tortillas but one of them had to of, because occasionally we would have them with dinner and grandpa used the Masa Harina to make tamales. So we did have corn flour around. I don’t remember a corn tortilla press around the kitchen. I would have seen it. Of course one of them could have used a plate to mash down the ball to the thickness needed to cook it.
We would occasionally visit relatives in Mexico. The person I called Aunt would go every morning it seemed like, to get fresh made corn tortillas at the factory. From there we would go to a bakery that had still warm Pan Dolce (sweet bread with a thick sweet topping that had been cut). I got to eat one on the way back home. When we got back home I would have the rest of the bread with a cup of Sweet Mexican Coffee. I was drinking coffee very very young. I think that all Mexican children must have the same coffee as I had, at  least around the grandparents.

Masa Harina is something you will find in most grocery stores, even in a small town like I live in. If worst comes to worse, you can get it at most Walmart stores or order it online at Amazon.com . This is something you cannot substitute for when making  corn tortillas. You only use water with the masa harina to make them, and again you will be cooking them in a well seasoned cast iron skillet. With flour or corn tortillas you do not put anything in the skillet, that is one reason it is better to have a well seasoned skillet.

 

Corn Tortillas

1 1/2 cups Masa Harina
1/2 tsp salt ( roughly you can use less until you figure how much is needed)
2 tbsp lard ( melted) (or oil if you wish, the lard gives it a good flavor or none at all)
1 cup warm water
Flour

I will tell you now that Maseca is probably the best masa harina. You need to mix the masa harina and the salt, add the melted lard, mix.
Add the warm water. Mix completely, depending on the weather the amount of water needed will change. If the dough ball seems
dry add around 1/8 of cup of warm water till the dough ball is soft and smooth. If it seems wet
add more masa harina, again knead until soft and smooth. Add flour as needed while kneading dough.
Place in zip lock bag and allow to rest for around 15 or so minutes.
Will not hurt it to sit for several hours as long as it is wrapped or in a zip lock bag.

Heat skillet to Med- Hot.

Divide dough into 15 to 16 balls. Keep balls covered while you are cooking the one and pressing the other. I cut a unused quart size zip
lock bag on the seams to use in the press to keep them from sticking to anything. If you don’t have a press you can use a plate,
one with a bottom rim would be preferable. Once pressed open on side of the zip lock bag, remove the other side dropping the tortilla
into your hand. Drop the tortilla into hot skillet cook for about a minute to 1 1/2 minute
on each side or so. As the one side is cooking you can press another tortilla and have it ready when the one that is cooking is done.
There will be dark spots on the tortillas. This is normal. Keep warm in a unbleached and no softener used towel. The perfume from
either product will bleed into the tortillas,

 

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