The La Tortilleria process is rooted in a culinary tradition that is over 3000 years old.
In Mexico nixtamal tortilla making is a craft passed down from generation to generation in tortilla-making families. As with many generational traditions each family has their own variations to the technique or recipe that makes their recipe unique.
Here at La Tortilleria we’re proud to have a 4th generation nixtamal tortilla maker from Coahuila, Mexico on our team making sure that every tortilla that leaves our doors remains true to this ancient tradition. Each day at our Melbourne ‘tortilleria’ we’re hard at work making nixtamal tortillas from scratch, and here’s how we do it…
STEP 1: Start with whole corn kernels
It all starts with corn: wholegrain kernels, locally grown, and naturally sun-dried on the plant. This isn’t the usual sweet corn you find at the local fruit shop. This is speciality tortilla making corn – white field maize – which our farmers grow for us in northern NSW.
STEP 2: Nixtamalise the corn for 12 hours
This next step is key. It is the trick the ancient Mesoamericans figured out for transforming their humble corn grains into the nutritional superfood that fuelled their great civilisations. The corn kernels are cooked and steeped overnight in water mixed with naturally-occurring limestone. This ‘nixtamal’ process softens the corn’s outer hulls so they can be easily ground into dough. But most importantly, it increases the calcium and releases the B vitamins and amino acids locked inside the kernels, drastically magnifying their nutritional value.
STEP 3: Prepare the volcanic stone mill
Early the next morning we drain and rinse the corn kernels to prepare them for milling. We also prepare the volcanic mill stones from Mexico we use for grinding. These stones are a work of art, with each line manually chiselled to the precise shape and depth needed to create the perfect dough, or ‘masa’.
STEP 4: Wet-grind the kernels
The soaked grains then pass through our ‘molino’ or traditional Mexican stone mill. The volcanic stones work their magic and grind the moist grains directly into a soft dough, as the smell of fresh earthy corn fills the room.
STEP 5: Press & bake the tortillas
The freshly-ground tortilla dough is then pressed into tortillas straight away. We have to do this ¡Rapido! as fresh masa doesn’t last longer than a few hours! The tortillas are then baked to perfection by passing through 4 layers of flame-heated ‘comales’ inside our Mexican tortilla oven.
STEP 6: Stack each tortilla by hand
After being baked, each one of our tortillas lovingly passes through our team’s hands to be stacked and manually packed. They are then sent off to restaurants and independent grocery stores across the country, ready to fulfil their destiny of becoming tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and other delicious meals.