Let’s take a look at Pozole, a Mexican dish eaten on mainly on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. It is often served with tostadas or crema, in which my first encounter with this dish was upon my trip to Taqueria Coatzingo, where we ordered Pozole Rojo de Pollo (this variation of Pozole having chicken instead of pork). Its history is rich and among that, it has roots in the ancient process of nixtamalization. What I like about this dish is that it includes one of my favorite foods- hominy corn. I have a bit of history with this type of corn, having eaten it in porridge since I was little. My family is particular to using the corn in the packs like the one pictured below. We don’t cook it as often we used to – my grandmother being the sole preparer of this dish. In a way, hominy has become reserved for special occasions in my family too.
Pozole has etymological backgrounds in Nahuatl, meaning, hominy. The Nahuatl variation of this word is pozolli. The base word here is ‘pozōn’ meaning ‘boil, be covered with foam’.
Pozole differs from the colors, red, white, and green. These different colors align with the slight alteration of ingredients. White Pozole comes from the lack of green and red spices and peppers. Green Pozole includes tomatillos, cilantro, green peppers like jalapenos. Red Pozole, like the one we had ordered at Taqueria Coatzingo, includes guajillo or ancho chiles. I compared multiple popular recipes on the internet to see what they all had in common. As there are many variations of this dish, the commonalities seem to run between hominy, pork, onion, and garlic. The default meat is usually pork, although chicken sometimes an option.
Here’s a video of Amelia Ceja, President of the Mexican-American owned vineyard in Napa Valley, making Jalisco style pozole from scratch.
Anson Mills’ blog also gives a wonderful history and the clearest explanation of this ancient process of corn as well. From his article, he breaks down the process of getting the maize to that desired form of hominy. The nixtamal process the corn undergoes is a natural chemical reaction between the water and the wood ash that form a chemical “called potassium hydroxide (colloquially, potash) that dissolves pericarp (the cellophane stuff that gets stuck in your teeth when you eat popcorn) straight off the kernels. The kernels are left plump, naked as a baby, and infused with an intoxicating flavor…” And I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. This process is unique in the way it brings out nutrition and flavor. This same process is the way in which tortillas are made.
The way in which you can make your own hominy from scratch, sans the ancestral pot, is by using culinary lime-water and your corn. Culinary lime is a substitute for this water and ash combo, helping to produce the same potassium hydroxide. Numerous sites have also informed me that it is best to go about this using a slow cooker, the faster cooking that stoves have granted us is not ideal for this process. The process, of course, does take longer, but the use of this method will give a richer taste to the corn. Packaged hominy is available, and the likely option for most. Aside from the Goya package that my family is privy to, there are also canned versions of hominy. It is up to preference but I would suggest going for the packs or even taking a swing at making your own hominy. Canned goods are known to be higher in sodium levels due to the need to provide a longer shelf life and not be as high in nutritional values versus something fresh.
The nixtamal result of this corn is not only scrumptious but nutritious as well. These include niacin, potassium, protein, and also low calorie. At this point, you’re probably thinking there’s no way that corn can get any better. But alas, there is more. Hominy corn is versatile enough that after making your hominy, you can freeze it and use it for another day.
Pozole does have a dark past despite being such a regarded dish. It was originally “a ritual meal for the Aztecs and a symbol that celebrated the creation of humanity from corn.” as AzCentral tells us. They later write “In the ‘General History of Things from New Spain’, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun mentioned that during the festivities to honor the god Xipe, the emperor was served a massive dish of “pozolli” made with the thigh of a sacrificed prisoner.” Yikes. Could you imagine eating your pozole with the limbs of prisoners offered at sacrifices? Of course, when there are offerings to Gods, nothing is off limits. Especially a god in charge of life, death, rebirth deity, agriculture, and the seasons, among many other things. It wasn’t until Spanish involvement and colonization that any type of sacrifices and cannibalism became against the law. This is why pork is the default meat- it’s resemblance and similar taste to human flesh. Although 1920’s journalist William Seabrook, describes the taste of man similar to veal. He goes more in depth in his book Jungle Ways, if you want to know more.
Variations across Mexico In Jalisco, Rojo Pozole is more common, which also includes pork, ancho chiles, limes, and radishes.
Guerrero interesting includes avocados and green tomatoes into their Pozole. That state, in particular, is famous for their Verde pozole. On googling, you’ll find there are variations strictly named Guerrero Pozole.
For simplicity, I’ve included an online recipe that has raving reviews of authenticity. This specific recipe is for Rojo pozole with pork, courtesy of Genius Kitchen.
- Prepare the onion, peel the garlic, chop the onion, peel and chop the 2 garlic cloves, chop the green chilies and jalapenos if you are using them and get the hominy drained and rinsed.
- Place the meat in a large saucepan and just cover with lightly salted water.
- Add 1/2 chopped onion, the 2 cloves peeled garlic, pepper, cumin, and oregano.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, skim off any foam that rises, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove meat and broth, reserving both.
- Saute the remaining chopped onion and garlic in oil until translucent.
- Add the remaining spices, stir for a minute.
- Cut the reserved pork into 1-inch cubes and add to the pan.
- Stir in the canned hominy, pork broth (if there is not enough pork broth, add chicken stock, I like to add it anyway for flavor, about 2-4 cups, eyeball the amount you like), green chilies and jalapenos (optional).
- Cook at a simmer, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes until the meat and hominy are tender.
Arnandis, M.M. Tributo y familia en nueva Granada: la provincia de Tunja en los siglos XVII y XVIII. Pujol & Amado SLL, 2004.
Dazzle, Razzle. “Authentic Mexican Pozole Recipe – Genius Kitchen.” Recipe – Genius Kitchen. Accessed 28 February 2018.
Fernau, Karen. “Posole: A Taste of Mexico’s Soul.” Azcentral. Accessed 28 February 2018.
“Fresh Whole Hominy” Anson Mills – Artisan Mill Goods, 2018.
“Hominy” Alchetron, 2018.
“Learn How to Make Pozole with Amelia Ceja” YouTube, uploaded by Ceja Vineyards, 8 Jan 2010.
mmartinez21. “Green Pozole Soup Guerrero Style” Mexico In My Kitchen. Accessed 28 April 2018.
“Posole” Merriam-Webster, 20 March 2018.
“Recipe: Jalisco-Style Red Pozole – Pozole Rojo Estilo Jalisco” Web Extras by The Leonard Lopate Show by WNYC, 31 Oct 2014.