Video: Making Limewater for Soaking Corn

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012

Corn has a bad rap these days primarily due to the pervasive presence of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the food supply.    This frankenfood, generally made with GM corn and laced with mercury residue from processing (Environmental Health, January 2009), is in the majority of processed foods and drinks and is being blamed for all sorts of health woes including the obesity epidemic.

The fact is that corn is a traditional food and when high quality, nonGMO corn is procured and prepared properly, can be both delicious and healthy!

And, if you are a Southern gal like me, you like your corn – am I right?

Grits and cornbread anyone?

In this latest video, I show you how to make limewater which is the proper soaking medium for corn in North and South American traditional societies.  The healthy, strong, and fierce Seminole Tribe of Florida, for example, sustained themselves primarily on soaked corn gruel.

I have to admit that when I first got into traditional cooking, I thought limewater was the juice of limes diluted in water.

Not so!   Limewater is made quite differently as I demonstrate in the video lesson using dolomite powder.

Why Soak Corn?

Soaking corn or cornmeal overnight in limewater releases the Vitamin B3 and improves the amino acid profile of the corn making for easier digestion.

If corn is a staple in your diet, then soaking in limewater is a must as the disease pellagra is caused by Vitamin B3 deficiency.  Symptoms of pellagra include sore skin, mental problems, and fatigue.

Even if you don’t eat corn that frequently, limewater is so easy to make and lasts for such a long time in the pantry – why not soak your corn to create homemade corn dishes that are as nutrient dense and easily digested as possible?

*I use 1 cup of limewater for every 2 cups of corn or cornmeal when I am making cornbread, corn casserole and other corn based dishes. Pour the limewater out of the mason jar carefully – you don’t want to use the lime that has settled at the bottom, only the limewater. Soaking for 12-24 hours is sufficient to release the nutrients but cornbread in particular will rise better if soaked for 24 hours.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source:  Nourishing Traditions

Picture Credit

 

Comments (95)

  1. Pingback: Selbstgemachte Cornflakes | Nourishing Swirl

  2. Thank you Sara for your great videos. Would you please tell me if you also soak frozen corn? That’s all the corn we eat at home. Garcias so much! :)

    Reply
  3. There are numerous comments in the thread of this old post refuting the process of using dolomite. Dolomite doesn’t do anything to corn. It is more or less inert. It is lime, which is burned lime stone or shells, which is used to process corn in nixtimalization. Lime is caustic and alkaline which is what does the work. dolomite is lime and magnesium in an inert form, it’s just ground rocks. This video is misinforming people and shouldn’t even be up let alone promoted to more people. I think the new edition of Nourishing Traditions has even corrected this erroneous procedure. Please read and consider tonia’s comment and link to accurate information based on much research and experience. What would be great is if you took this video down and made a new one that is accurate.

    Reply
  4. Ashley Almazan Ciferno via Facebook December 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    we buy Cal at the Mexican supermarkets. I live in South Florida and there are quite a few around here.

    Reply
  5. Bonnie Jameson via Facebook December 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Couldn’t you use pickling lime? If it’s dolomite powder, I don’t think it’s technically “limewater.” I doubt that they all used dolomite, which is a crystal. There is natural limestone all over here, and my guess is that they actually used LIME.

    Reply
  6. In Mexico the nixtamalization is the preferred way to make the corn more digestible. Many people believe that the modern Tortillas are made in the traditional way, but that is a big mistake. In Mexico I always look for traditionaly made nixtamal tortillas. I will try the soaking in lime water. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. I noticed at the beginning of your article you mentioned HFCS….and the mercury content from processing it…I would like to inform you that it is made with Aspergillis Niger ( Black mold) and this is a very nasty thing to use for human consumption..

    Reply
  8. Wow, why is this page still here? tonia sing chi has provided a substantial amount of information above showing that this video is totally misleading and does not at all do what it says. You’re misinforming people. I think the new nourishing traditions even says to do it the right way now. Assuming the goal is to educate people, a correction would seem in order if not just removing the post and putting up a new one.
    steven e\’s last post: Coconut Oil Brings Peace to the Middle East

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Comparing Gluten Free Flours - HealthNut Nation

  10. Is the corn cooked in the limewater? Any useful purpose for the limewater after the corn has been drained? Or does the corn absorb all of it?

    Reply
  11. Hello Sarah,
    I wanted to clarify some things for your readers regarding this post on soaking corn in lime water. This topic is very near and dear to my heart, as I have been completely geeking out about growing heirloom corn, nixtamalizing corn (the process of steeping it in lime), and making the “perfect” tortilla for some time now.

    There are many different forms of “lime” which has caused quite some confusion! Lime actually undergoes a chemical cycle, during which it takes on three different forms: calcium carbonate, calcium oxide, and calcium hydroxide. The raw material of lime is calcium carbonate, either in the form of limestone, sea shells, chalk, marble, or coral. When burned at high temperature, these naturally occurring materials form calcium oxide, or quicklime. The quicklime can then be “slaked” by adding it to water, resulting in a heat releasing reaction that forms calcium hydroxide.

    When nixtamalizing corn with “lime”, you need CALCIUM HYDROXIDE, or CALCIUM OXIDE, which, as I just explained dissolves into calcium hydroxide when added to water. Calcium hydroxide is an alkaline solution, meaning it is basic and caustic. It has special chemical properties that make it capable of dissolving the hard outer layer of the corn kernel, allowing the seed to swell, and releasing bound nutrients. Dolomite powder, as you recommend, is really just ground up high magnesium limestone. Both dolomite powder and calcium carbonate powder are sold as dietary supplements and agricultural amendments. This ground rock, however, is insoluble in water, rendering it inert for the purpose of nixtamalizing corn. If you buy lime for nixtamalization at the store, you’ll need to look for “cal” or “pickling lime”, as some of your readers commented. Both are food grade white powders. Cal (found most easily in mexican grocery stores) is quicklime, while pickling lime (used in the pickling process to ensure crispness) is calcium hydroxide. I have never come across an account of traditional cultures soaking their corn in dolomite powder, and as far as I know, it will do little more than adding a little calcium to your diet.

    As nixtamalization was employed in a vast expanse of corn-centered societies, there is substantial variation in historic accounts of how the process was conducted. However, all of them involve steeping whole field corn in an alkaline solution (lime water or wood ash lye), and then thoroughly rinsing the kernels clean. This corn is now called hominy or nixtamal, and can be WET ground- coursely into grits, or finely into masa flour for tortillas, tamales, etc. Of course you can dry it for storage too.

    Another note on corn, which I think might be of interest/concern to your reader population: the cornmeal you buy at the store is actually stripped of its outer nutrient containing layers, as well as its germ-the portion of the seed which contains the oils that can go rancid with prolonged storage. Cornmeal from the store is really just ground endosperm (the starch portion of the seed), and has significantly diminished nutritional quality and flavor–and of course, doesn’t easily go bad because of this. Buying your own corn and grinding it is a good idea, as you recommend, although the corn you buy from the store is still likely to be contaminated by GMOs. Corn is wind pollinated, and can therefore easily cross with each other within a radius of up to 2 miles. Technically, the “Organic” label on corn means it is not a genetically modified variety, but this does not account for the potential, and likely, contamination (an average of estimates I’ve see is about 5% of all “Organic” corn is contaminated). I’m still on the search for a good source of non-gmo contaminated heirloom corn…but in the meantime, i’ll just keep trying to grow what I can!

    I have a full description of types of corn and alkali used, and an step-by-step outline of the process, for anyone interested, confused, or curious : http://homescale.wordpress.com/corntortillas/ It also clarifies the questions surrounding “corn on the cob” vs. popcorn vs. corn used as a cereal grain.

    Hoping this information is helpful to you and your readers. I know I love my traditionally prepared corn, and am always enthusiastic to share the wonders of this ancient food technology with others.

    tonia

    Reply
  12. Sarah, it was asked several times and i never saw an answer. Could you tell me, do you rinse the cornmeal after it has soaked in the lime water? Or do you just use it with the lime water in it?

    Thank you. Love your videos and would love to see you make cornbread!
    Joie

    Reply
  13. Do you use your Champion grinder to grind your corn into flour, or a specialty grinder? I have a Champion, too, but I’ve never done corn.

    Reply
  14. Could you elaborate just a little further as to using the soaked cornmeal in a recipe? I would assume the soaked cornmeal is like pudding the next day. How does that affect ( if at all) the amount of liquid you would normally add while making a cornbread recipe? Should one only soak exactly the amount of cornmeal called for in their recipe and adjust the limewater ratio accordingly ? ( I should think soaked cornmeal would be too difficult to measure out afterwards).

    Reply
  15. I’m wondering how a cornbread recipe will need to be altered if I use soaked cornmeal? I’m assuming that because the corn is moist that the proportions of ingredients will change-is this correct?

    Reply
  16. Another real food blog I was reading said to use Pickling lime ( which appears to be different to dolomite powder). Which is best to use?
    Many thanks

    Reply
  17. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama May 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I would love to hear more about soaking corn and creating foods out of corn. My youngest does not do well with any unsoaked grain so I have been unable to eat corn for awhile. And our go-to meal used to be taco salad, so that’s had to change! Unless I make flour tortillas anyway…. But we would LOVE to learn to make our own corn tortillas or chips. And cornbread…since I like to serve it with chili. I’d love to see more info on this and recipes.
    Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama\’s last post: What About Alternative Schedules?

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist May 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Food is to be enjoyed as well as to nourish ourselves and what in the world would chili be without cornbread?????

      I think it is important to remember that food is for pleasure and enjoyment .. when food is enjoyed and relished it will nourish you better too as the body will receive it in a more relaxed manner which improves digestion and absorption of nutrients.

      Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Yes .. you still need to soak to release the B3. Sprouting can be sufficient for other grains though.

      Reply
  18. Thanks Sarah! I am a southern girl too – love corn, cornbread, grits but have been avoiding all thinking all corn is GM these days. This gives me hope I can enjoy these again! :-)
    Where do you find organic, non-GM cornmeal?
    Where do you find organic, non-GM corn on the cob?
    Where do you find organic, non-GM grits?
    Re: the limewater. Once you have used the water in the mason jar, can you refill the jar with water, reusing the same KAL powder? Or do you need to start over with new powder?

    Thanks!
    Beth

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      You can get organic corn from a grain co-op. Great prices this way and the quality is very good.

      You cannot reuse the powder. It turns hard as a rock at the bottom of the mason jar and needs to be discarded after one use.

      Reply
  19. Just wondering how you felt about Dr. Mercolas claim that fermented or regular cod liver oil is not the correct choice because once it hits the air it gets oxidized and makes your body need more antioxidants than before? Have you heard this?

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      The cod liver oil Mercola is talking about is not the one I recommend which is raw, fermented and purified without any heat (see my Resources page for companies to get this from. Healthfood stores do not sell quality brands). He is talking about industrially process cod liver oils that are heated to obscenely high temperatures.

      Reply
  20. Kellie Hunt via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for this.My husband has diverticulitis and corn,a favorite,hurts him.I believe if I soak it it will be easier on him to digest.

    Reply
  21. Hi, Love all your information and videos. Would you soak dry or frozen organic corn and then dry it out to make Masa for corn tortillas. I use powdered masa right now that is soaked in lime, but realize that the corn used is probably not organic. I was wondering how I could make this myself using the method you are mentioning?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      I would grind the corn into cornmeal and then soak before making the tortillas. You can do it your way but then you have the extra step of drying the corn before you grind it.

      Reply
      • I soak the corn overnight, rinse well and then process in the food processor immediately so I omit the extra step in making tortillas.

        Reply
  22. Great video. I do have a question. So you shake up the lime water to mix it before using it for soaking or just use the clear liquid?

    Reply
  23. Amy Jo via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks! What about just making fresh corn off the cob? From your own garden? Do you recommend soaking that as well?

    Reply
  24. I’ve got two questions:

    1. Up till now I was thinking that pickling lime from the store was used to make lime water. The ingredients on the bag say: Calcium Hydroxide (Lime). So, have I been wrong in thinking this?

    2. Are all corn necessary to soak? Even sweet corn on the cob, popcorn, etc. ?

    Thanks for this helpful info! And sorry we are bombarding you with all our questions at ones!!

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Don’t just buy any lime. Get a quality brand (like KAL .. link in post to a picture) that is tested for purity. Cheap lime can be contaminated.

      You don’t have to soak corn on the cob or popcorn .. just don’t overdo. We only do unsoaked corn a couple times a month in our home.

      Reply
      • What does “tested for purity” mean? Specifically, what contaminants should be tested for, and what is the threshold (ppm) of contaminants which is unsafe for use?

        Reply
  25. Danetta Cates via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

    wondering where to find a non GMO corn source. also,is that what u meant about not buying cornmeal in store?

    Reply
    • Non GMO corn is sold at organic shops. Cornmeal shouldn’t be purchased at the store as you need to freshly grind it so that it’s not rancid. At least that’s my take on it all :)

      Reply
  26. As missionaries to Mexico for 35 yrs. we watched this firsthand !! They boil the dried field corn kernels water with powdered limestone (cal) added and then grind for tortillas. Everyone in rural areas does this!!!…..janet

    Reply
  27. I wish everything you posted wasn’t on video. I have satellite internet and videos eat up my bandwidth. Love your information and I love my grits. One post (not necessarily yours) mentioned that commercial grits are just ground corn and not treated with lime. So how would I know which ones?

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 2, 2012 at 11:30 am

      If you buy grits, soak in limewater and then cook up the next morning as usual.

      GIMME SOME GRITS!

      Reply
      • I still can’t find the proportions for water to lime. And do you use the water for soaking and just cook with it. Like you do the bread with the soaking water?

        Reply
  28. Does this apply to corn kernels too? And what about frozen organic corn? That’s what I typically buy, do I soak those? Thank you for your videos, and your articles, I am a huge fan and I appreciate you taking the time you take to inform us with such helpful information!

    Reply
  29. I, like Gina, want to know about soaking fresh corn, whether on the cob or not, and recipes/guidelines for casserole dishes would be great. I am a lover of fresh corn more than cornbread. Also, what about soaking popcorn? It would then need to be re-dried; has anyone ever done this?

    Reply
  30. Do you discard the lime that has settled, or can you re-use it? Do you need to do any filtering of the powder before you soak the corn. Thanks!

    Reply
  31. Thanks for posting this! It’s funny, just yesterday I was contemplating what it would take to make my own corn tortilla chips – I have tried alternatives, but my guacamole consumption just isn’t the same without corn chips. I figured you would need to soak your corn first but wasn’t sure of the best way to go about. Thanks again!

    Reply
  32. Concerning whole corn on the cob, would you soak that in the husk or would you shuck it first? How long would you soak it?

    Reply
  33. Sarah,

    I love all your posts and videos, they are so helpful. I hope you have time to make a follow up video showing us how you prepare various corn products using your lime water. THANK YOU!!!

    Reply
  34. Great videéo !

    Please could you add the exact Lime brand you’re bying + a picture maybe? It is not clear in the video.
    Thanks

    Reply
  35. Great info. My own confusion, when I first heard about this many years ago, must have come from slightly distorted info someone gave me. I was told corn was treated with lye. And I just could not understand how that made any sense. lol. Well, maybe not distorted so much as just information on a different topic. I’m not sure. I’ll have to try this method and experience the results!

    Reply
  36. Amy Jo via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Ok questions: how long is the limewater good for kept in the fridge? Do you use dry corn or fresh/frozen corn? Thanks.

    Reply
  37. Can this lime water be used to rid the vegetable of any pesticide residues? Also can this be another use for decreasing the phytic acid present in many beans/legumes? thanks!

    Reply
  38. I made lime water a few months ago but it has been sitting at the back of my stove. I think I’ll make a new batch to keep in the fridge and am thinking the old lime water would be good to pour around my tomato plants. Does this sound good? Would it be good to distribute the powder portion also or is it pretty much spent?

    Reply
  39. Is this just for dried corn and corn meal? How do you drain the water from corn meal? I never understood how soaking the flours helps because the seed chemicals that you are trying to wash off (such as with beans and nuts) would be washed off when you rinse, but aren’t they still part of the flour since you can’t rinse flour? I don’t know if I worded this quite right.
    Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  40. Lauren Sturm via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I have the lime but have wondered how to do this. The books are very vague about it. My hubby loves corn but I dont fix it a lot because he is already zapped for energy.

    Reply
  41. I usually add a few tablespoons of calcium to water and corn in a pan, bring to a boil and then turn off and allow to sit 24 hours. Does this process accomplish the same goal or do I need to change my method?

    Reply
  42. Amanda Brown via Facebook May 2, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Bethany Sheridan Ficks, how funny! We were just talking about this at your last class!

    Reply

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