The Wondrous Corn Tortilla

Martha, Lily and Edith.

Martha, Lily and Edith.

In 1928,  gaunt and dazed from 6 weeks at sea, my Grandmother Lily, stepped off  the Orinoco, the ship that had brought her and her two little girls to the shores of  Mexico from Hungary.  They had sailed across the Atlantic from the port of Hamburg in Germany, and arrived 6 weeks later at the port of Tampico, in the Gulf of Mexico. Holding my mother Martha and my Aunt Edith’s hands, she stepped off  the gangplank and into a new world from the one she had known in Budapest.  My grandfather Berzi, who a year before had announced he was going to America, was there waiting for them.  He had arrived in Tampico, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, got settled, and sent word his to wife, that the family should join him.

The days and weeks passed.  My Grandmother was homesick.   She was overcome with sadness, because she missed her mother too much.  She could not adjust to life in Mexico, with its strange language, strange ways, and strange food.  In particular she hated those round, cardboard tasting discs that everybody accompanied their food with;  yes, my  Grandmother Lily hated tortillas.  She was so unhappy,  she boarded the ship anew, with Martha and Edith in tow, and went back to Hungary.

After several months, my grandfather persuaded her to come once more.  After all, he argued,  “At least here in Mexico, there is no anti-Semitism like that in Hungary, nor will we have to go down to the cellar to hide from the Bolsheviks”.   She reluctantly agreed, went back to Tampico and settled into a new life.

Eventually, my supremely Hungarian grandmother, came to love Mexico, and its food.  She especially learned that the rich and smoky subtleties of the corn tortilla, were a thing of beauty.  She came to understand and appreciate that  the tortilla was a food like no other.

Two generations later I couldn’t agree more.  This ancient staple of the Aztecs, the wondrous tortilla,  is a treat, rolled up warm and freshly made, or it is the unique and irreplaceable building block in the making of so many dishes.

Come along, watch my video, and make your own homemade corn tortillas.

Corn Tortillas

For this recipe you will need a Tortilla Press.  I bought mine at a restaurant supply shop, but they can be found in places such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Smart & Final, Macy’s or Amazon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup MASECA INSTANT CORN MASA (dough) FLOUR
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt

Barring a few tweaks, I basically followed the directions for 8 tortillas, on the back of the MASECA flour bag.

Combine the three ingredients.  Mix thoroughly for a few minutes to form soft dough.   “If dough feels dry add more water (one tablespoon at a time).”

Divide dough into 8 equal balls, about the size of a golf ball.

Heat a dry griddle or non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat.

Line the tortilla press with a large cut open Ziploc bag.

Place one ball of dough at a time in the center of the tortilla press, and flatten.  As you carefully remove the tortilla, place it on the hot griddle or in the pan.  Leave tortilla for about a minute on one side, it will start to smoke a bit and you’ll know it’s time to flip it over with a spatula.  Leave for about one more minute on the other side, and remove to a tortilla warmer or a cloth napkin.

Continue the process one tortilla at a time, until you have made them all.

With your freshly made tortillas as building blocks, you are now ready to make  tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, quesadillas, chilaquiles, and  many more Mexican delicacies.

Enjoy!

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