In the kitchen of a snow-covered cabin in northern Montana, a lonely, gallon-sized can of hominy sits on a high shelf. My hunting buddies make merciless fun of that hominy, and me by extension.
In New Mexico those large corn kernels are called posole, and they're used to make a stew that goes by the same name. And I assure you the next time I'm at that cabin, my "friends" will eat those laughs along with the posole I will make. And they will love it.
The difference between regular corn hominy and posole comes by way of a process called nixtamalization, in which the corn is soaked in an alkaline bath of calcium hydroxide, aka lime. Lye, or more traditionally wood ash, can be used as well. Nixtamalization removes the outer shells of the kernels, allowing them to swell to outsized proportions. The process prevents the corn seeds from sprouting, which was important for storage purposes in ancient Mesoamerica, where the process was invented.
Nixtamalization removes the outer shells of the kernels, allowing them to swell to outsized proportions. The process prevents the corn seeds from sprouting, which was important for storage purposes in ancient Mesoamerica, where the process was invented.
After a cold day outside, posole and a blazing fire go together like alcohol and New Year’s Eve. It's a great dish to have the means to make in a winter outpost.
From a culinary perspective, canned posole is inferior to the dried or frozen forms, but more convenient. Dried posole must be soaked overnight or cooked all day, but the texture is chewier, and the flavor is sweeter, with more depth. If you can find frozen posole corn, it's the best of both worlds: It cooks quickly and tastes as good as dried posole.
Another variable in posole is what kind of meat is used. I usually use a tough cut of red meat, like shank—preferably on the bone. Traditionally, pork is the most commonly used meat. In terms of how it's prepared, the toughness of the meat is what determines the procedure that's used, rather than what kind of animal it comes from. In the recipe below I'll discuss how to make posole stew with any kind of posole corn—canned, frozen or dried—and with both tender and tough cuts of meat.