Saturday, July 18, 2015

Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante







     Toasted Cuzco Giant Corn!  Ancient Gourmet Popcorn!
     Cuzco, Peru was the capitol of the Ancient Incan civilization.  Cuzco was the central site of many cultures before the Incan Empire began.  Ancient South American civilizations had a lot of experience in developing vegetable and medicinal plant hybrids.  Most of the modern world's potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn varieties were all originally developed by ancient civilizations in South America.  

     Maiz Cuzco Gigante is a spectacular corn varietal.  Every kernel has nearly the exact same shape, size and color.  This variety of corn has kernels that have a thin hull.  The thin hull does not become hard or sharp when it is fried or toasted.  
     Regular popping corn has a relatively thick hull that holds moisture inside when it is fried.  When fried, the moisture turns to steam and the hull splits, then the starchy inside of the kernel expands and explodes to create fluffy light popcorn.  Dried Cuzco Giant Maiz certainly does pop and explode when it is fried, but because the hull is thin, the starchy inside of the kernel does not rapidly expand like regular popcorn.  
     As you can see in the photos above, many of the Toasted Giant Cuzo Corn Kernels split open, but the starchy inside of the kernel did not expand and become puffy.  Even so, the Fried Giant Cuzco Maiz is not hard, tough or chewy after frying.  The fried hull is not hard or fibrous.  Fried Cuzco Giant Maiz is crunchy, yet very tender!  
    The starchy inside of a giant corn kernel has a toasted bread kind of flavor when it is fried.  In fact, the flavor of fried Cuzco Giant Maize is kind of addictive!

     Peruvians do like to snack.  Stores, restaurants and street vendors sell little bags of a wide variety of snack food.  Snacking is a as much a personal event as it is a social event in Peru.  Groups of people stand around talking and chatting, while munching on little bags of snacks.  Toasted Cuzco Giant Maiz is one of the most popular snack foods in Peru.  
     Outside of Peru, bags of a snack product called Corn Nuts are marketed in convenience stores.  Corn Nuts are very hard and crunchy.  Toasted Cusco Giant Maiz is not even half as hard as Corn Nuts.  Those who do not like Corn Nuts because they can damage dental work, will like Toasted Cuzco Giant Maiz because it is more tender.

     Cuzco Giant Maiz is Nixtamalized before it is dried.  The corn is boiled with ash or slaked lime to make the nutrients in corn easily available for digestion.  Nixtamalization also gives corn kernels a lighter color. 
     Dried Cuzco Giant Corn is usually labeled as "Maiz Gigante del Cusco" or "Maiz Cancha Cuzco Gigante."  The label on the bag also usually says "Giant Cuzco Corn For Toasting."  If you see both those items on the label, then you have found the right variety of corn for today's recipe.  
     Giant Cuzco maiz can be found at international markets, latin markets, gourmet food stores and internet shopping sites like Amazon.

      One thing about frying giant Cuzco maiz, it that it is traditionally toasted in a big pot with no lid, but this method can be somewhat challenging.  A loose fitting lid is best for keeping the popped kernels in the pot. 
     Only a tiny amount of oil is needed to toast the giant corn kernels.  Take care and be calm when the giant Cuzco Giant Corn starts to pop, because this corn sounds like loud firecrackers when it pops!  
      If you are into entertaining children while cooking, leave the lid off of the pot.  The few giant corn kernels that pop and fly out of the pot will travel quite some distance!  Trying to catch the corn kernels is part of the fun of toasting Cuzco Giant Maiz!

     Toasted Maiz Cuzco Gigante:
     This recipe yields 1 snack portion.
     This recipe is the same as the traditional recipe that is printed on the bag of Maiz Cancha Cuzco Gigante in the pictures above!  The traditional recipe for Tostada Maiz Cuzco Gigante has not changed since it was created in ancient times.
     Keep in mind that this corn variety does not pop like regular popcorn.  
     Step 1:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 cup of Dried Cuzco Giant Maiz Kernels.
     Step 2:  Gently shake the pot till all of the kernels are toasted to a golden brown color.  
     *The kernels will puff up and the hulls will split open.  Only a few kernels will actually pop!
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add a few pinches of sea salt while tossing.
     Place the Toasted Cuzco Maiz Gigante in a bowl and serve.

     Munching away on this great traditional Peruvian snack is a sheer pleasure!  The flavor of fried maiz gigante is one of a kind and it tastes much richer than regular popcorn.  No melted butter is needed.  This is a very healthy snack!  

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