Tortillas From Scratch
Making Tortillas With Maria Luisa

Welcome to our home! It is small but humble. I invite you to stay awhile and learn how a typical Mexican family, living in the country, makes tortillas. We must start with an understanding of the seasons in our state of Michoacan. These seasons determine the way we can grow corn and eventually prepare tortillas.

Through the Seasons
In January and February we have already started to plow under our two hectares of land. This is done with a team of oxen and a plow. Then in March and April we can start planting the corn seed. This takes a lot of patience and hard work amongst all family members. During the month of May, we must escardar (to form ridges) along the rows of young corn plants, to provide support for them when the rains come in the summer season. This season is in June and July when it may rain for days and after it rains, it becomes very hot. We always hope for enough rainfall so our cosechas (crops) will grow strong and produce many ears of corn. Of course with the rains, yerba (weeds) will flourish and we must work in the fields to remove them during the month of August. In September, the rains are not as frequent and by October, usually the corn is ready for harvesting. Therefore throughout October and November we harvest the ears of corn, transporting them back to our carga ("corn bin"). We fill the carga and then at the end of November and December we sort the ears of corn by color, and size.

During these months, we are the busiest with our work and don't have a lot of time to rest. Therefore we always hope our health is in the best condition, as the weather does start to become very cold at night, sometimes below zero degrees Celsius, and it becomes easy to catch a cold.

Types of Corn
We usually collect four different types of corn: azul (blue corn), blanco (white/yellow corn), negro (black corn), and sometimes rojo (red/violet corn). We prefer to eat blanco because there is more flavor, although we do eat a balance of different corn during the week. The bigger grano de mais (corn kernels) are kept for planting next year. Corn is the crop that demands the most labor and time.

Maria and her daugther-in-law show their hand-built container for storing the corn.

The Processing of the Corn for Tortillas
My day starts very early. My grandchildren help me take care of the sheep, the cows, the chickens. Later I must cut the firewood and prepare the food. After this I bathe myself and start my journey to the molino (corn mill). It takes 30 minutes to walk there, but before I begin I must prepare the kernels for grinding.

First, we select the best ears of corn for making tortillas. Then my family helps desgranar (to remove the kernels) and we are left with the sacate (husks). The olote is a handmade tool used to assist us in this process. It is made from leftover sacate bound with a metal strip. The hard surface creates enough friction to easily remove the kernels on the ears of corn.

Removing the kernels with the "olote".

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