Friday, September 10, 2010

Where to buy pickling lime - update

The soaked corn with germ and husk

9/10/10 Update on the search for Pickling Lime (calcium hydroxide, lye, cal)

Oy. The saga. Thank you for your suggestions, and here so far, is the feedback:

Not at Fairway (which is two 'hoods over, so reachable), though I had a couple of helpful Mexicans running up and down the aisles looking for 'cal', as it is known down south. They asked me patiently why I didn't just buy the prepared, canned hominy, and it was rather difficult explaining that I had this heirloom corn specially grown in a project exploring loss, that was going to be cooked from scratch to make hominy for pozole, for a Brooklyn harvest festival, though their eyes lit up at the mention of pozole...

Black covering (turns black after soaking in bicarb) of germ removed, germ still in there.

Calcium hydroxide was not at the pharmacy, either, my mother's suggestion. But at first, the petite bespectacled, helpful pharmacist at the CVS on Court at First Place said she could order it and have it here by the next day. Then she saw the price on her screen. $100 for a small packet. So she called the supplier's hotline and we waited with her on hold for ten minutes and listened to muzak. Finally she was told that they No Longer Supply It, Ever.

Is calcium hydroxide used for making bombs?

All the recipes say caution, steam, smoke, corrosive, mind your eyes, that kind of thing, so have we simply become afraid of chemicals in the kitchen? Kitchens are laboratories.

Germ begone

I resorted to the back-up method: Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, or bicarb...

I have cross-referenced about six online sources - non of which reliably reports on the results of using bicarb, with one interesting exception. The long, long, tedious, but interesting and rewarding process on (the Food).

Whether anyone will actually taste any of this at the Farm City Fair now is doubtful: eleventh hour instructions from a co-curator of the event suddenly insist on food permits and correct, USDA-approved canning procedures. Initially we 'd been told that if Christina registered as a farm we would be covered. We were going to be handing out hot tastes in little cups while the pozole simmered on my fondue burner. Unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen, as I cannot obtain a food permit overnight, so I am rather grumpy. I understand the logic, but deplore the lack of information in a timely manner, given how long this has been planned.

But it is a very worthwhile endeavour. After picking out every kernel in the corn for hours last night I can attest that there is an advantage in community. A group of us should be sitting in a circle in the September light, discussing life and the drawbacks of people with more ego than sense, as we flick the hard kernels from the centre of each corn seed with our thumb nails.

As it was I watched three soporific episodes of A Touch of Frost, circa 1989, got a crick in my already cricked neck, a craving for hot cups of tea and bacon sandwiches, and a potful of soft corn, ready to be hominy.

And while well known, it bears mentioning again that corn prepared with lime (and I do not know if this is true of bicarb, though I imagine so, since it is also alkaline) or wood ash (in the old days) makes available to the body, niacin, without which corn has very little nutritional value, and whose deficiency, in societies reliant upon corn as major food component, causes the disease pellagra.


  1. After reading about pickling lime, I'm not sure I would want to eat anything made using it! I have to admit I don't really know what hominy is - other than something that gets mentioned in novels!!

  2. It's well washed out by the time it is consumed.

    Think about corn syrup, though, an ingredient in so very many prepared foods, from soft drinks to bread to ketchup to chips. The process for extracting it is a tortuous and chemical one, so much so that no corn syrup manufacturer has ever let a journalist see it.

    Hominy are the soft-cooked dry corn kernels and is quite similar to samp, which you may know, and much eaten in the south as grits or in Mexico.

  3. I didn't realize the germ had to be removed! isn't that where a lot of the nutrients are? The Iroquois use wood ashes and a long soaking/rinsing/soaking process with a wonderful tender hominy as the result. I think the chemistry must be pretty amazing which turns hard flint corn into something soft and eminently edible.

  4. Pee Ess...what a bummer if you have to have the stupid food license to serve samples!!

  5. Hmm, I had similar difficulties trying to get some citric acid for making elderflower cordial. Apparently its used when cooking up heroin, not just when cooking up delicious summer drinks. I bought some online on ebay, but god knows I'm probably black listed now as up to no good by an agency somewhere...

    The cordial was pretty good though!

  6. Marie,

    Making pozole, or tamales, is definitively a "community" event, I remember rather fondly my grandmother gathering my mother, aunts, and every possible related female in the house to help out with the process, we all had a job! That is why I said you are a brave soul! Sorry you won't get to give away your pozole, or maybe you could, there is always a way, even in a the city full of control freaks! If you like to complicate your cooking life once more with a Mexican dish, try Chiles en Nogada, here is a recipe from a blog I follow when it comes to Mexican, real Mexican, food. The Granate of this dish will match your your terrace's color:

    Thanks for sharing your pozole experience.

  7. Brava! You're a culinary terrier, Marie, pursuing that lye, then proving that a substitute will work.

    But bacon sarnies, au Frost? Better stick with grits! ;-)

  8. QC - I must read more about the germ, it's all quite fascinating.

    iheartflowers - yum, I love elderflower cordial, but have not made my own, yet.

    Maria, that's funny - that's exactly the recipe I was looking for the other day, remembering it from Like Water for Chocolate! Making the pozole today, the hominy so far is really delicious.

    dinahmow - for about 10 years I could not look at bacon sandwiches, after they proved the final culinary straw for me: we had eaten at a 3 Michelin star restaurant, and I was unused to such richness (or else the crab terrine was tainted), plus drank wine (I was 13), then for supper we had bacon sandwiches.

    Not good, not good at all.

  9. I found pickling lime at a website called Good luck.

  10. This may no longer be relevant if you've already found a great source for pickling lime or calcium hydroxide in NYC, but Kalustyans carries it. I use it for natural indigo dyeing. :)


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