I used to think that hominy was a southern classic and I was right. Except it is not a southern state classic; it is a southern classic in the sense of southern Mexico classic. Hominy originated in the Mayan culture circa 1500 BC. Turning fresh maize into hominy prevented the kernels from sprouting so the Mayans could hold the mainstay of their diet in long term storage. As it turns out hominy also had great health benefits for the Mayans It not only provided a good source of calcium but the lye or lime used to make hominy reacts with the corn so that the niacin in maize could be better assimilated by the digestive tract.
To make hominy the Mayans first dried their maize and then soaked it in a lye or slaked lime solution. It was then rinsed well and dried before being consumed whole or ground into the corn flour, masa harina, used extensively in south of the border cuisine.
Southern colonists borrowed this preservation process over 3,000 years later from the Powhatan or Cherokee who also turned their maize into hominy. It was mostly consumed whole or ground into a coarse meal known as grits. Hominy evolved into a southern side dish and was later combined with meats to create main dishes.
Hominy shows up often in Mimi's Kitchen in the form of grits and in side dishes and casseroles. One dish favored for its taste, ease of preparation, and economy is Hominy Casserole. I found the original recipe in a junior league collection of Ozark Recipes with an unknown date of publication. The font, binding, and general greasiness of the booklet leads me to believe it was published in the early 1950s. I made a few changes to the original recipe to update the flavor profile. The original recipe calls for ground beef; I used half sage sausage and half ground beef. I also increased the spices and added diced jalapeño to my version. I used pepper jack in place of cheddar cheese.
½ pound ground beef
½ pound sage sausage
1 whole onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups canned tomatoes
4 cups hominy, drained
⅔ cup pepper jack cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray.
Brown the ground beef and sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until slightly pink.
While the meat is cooking prepare the onion, jalapeño, and garlic as directed; set aside. Measure cumin and chili powder into a small bowl and set aside.
When the meat is pink add onion and jalapeño. Cook 5 minutes and then stir in smashed garlic and spices. Cook 1 minute longer before adding tomatoes and hominy. Mix well and turn into a 2 quart baking dish. bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and bake an additional 10 minutes until melted.