Hominy refers to corn kernels without their germ and their hull, or bran. The germ and hull might be removed by soaking the corn in a special type of solution or by crushing the kernels and then sifting them out. It can be served whole or ground, and as a cereal or as a vegetable. The ground kernels can also be pressed into patties and fried. This dish is especially popular in the southern United States.
How It's Made
To make hominy, the corn can be soaked in an alkali solution, such as weak lye. This type is sometimes called lye hominy. When the germ and hull are removed mechanically by crushing and sifting, the variety is often referred to as "pearl." Removing the germ prevents the corn kernels from sprouting while they are being stored.
Other Names and Variations
There are many other names for the variations of hominy. It might be called yellow or white, depending on whether it was made with white corn or yellow corn. It's often called samp when it's coarsely ground, and when ground into small grains, it's often called grits, hominy grits, or little hominy. In some places, when the kernels are whole, it is called posole.
Hominy usually is boiled until tender and then served like mashed potatoes would be. Grits are often simmered with milk or water until they become very thick. This mixture can then be served like a cereal, or it can be chilled, pressed into patties and then fried. Posole is often used to make hearty stews that include chili peppers and pork. When finely ground, this type of corn can even be used to make dough for tamales or tortillas.
American colonists, who were unfamiliar with corn, had to learn from the native Indians how to make the tough grain edible. The pioneers prepared it by soaking the kernels in a weak wood-based lye until the hulls floated to the surface. They called this dish samp. The name "hominy" came from an Algonquin Indian word that meant something that had been ground, beaten, or treated.