I’m a massive believer in the value of small-scale regenerative farming, so any time I can find a company that shares my values and adds to the regenerative farming movement I’m more than happy to lend my support. Masienda is exactly one of those brands, with a focus on preserving heirloom corn grown using traditional agricultural practices, thereby promoting biodiversity and preserving cultural traditions in the food system that date back to 1500 BC. By sourcing and supplying these varieties of corn to chefs and home cooks, Masienda’s aim is to create a more sustainable and equitable food system for both the farmers and the consumers.
Photo Credit: Noah Forbes
The Masienda Story
Masienda was founded in 2014 by Jorge Gaviria, a former apprentice at the legendary farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill. Seeking to create a tortilla revolution in the U.S. in much the same way that coffee and bread making have undergone their own revolutions over the last decade, Gaviria turned his attention to heirloom corn while traveling in Mexico. Unlike corn grown in the U.S. – the mass produced, nearly all inedible corn found in everything from cattle feed to shoe polish – Gaviria studied the different varieties of corn that were used in traditional Mexican cooking, and was immediately struck by their unique flavors and textures. He also discovered that many of these varieties were in danger of being lost due to the dominance of hybrid corn and the use of industrial farming practices.
Gaviria decided to start Masienda to help preserve these heirloom varieties and promote their use in the culinary world. Since then he’s partnered with hundreds of farmers in Mexico to source the best quality corn, and subsequently created a market for it in the United States. Today, Masienda supplies corn to some of the best restaurants in the country, as well as home cooks who are passionate about cooking with traditional ingredients.
The Cornucopia Kit
The easiest way to introduce yourself to Masienda is to go all in with the Cornucopia Kit. One of Masienda’s most popular products, the Cornucopia kit includes everything you need to make your own tortillas and other corn-based dishes at home. The kit includes a Doña Rosa Tortilla Press, a carbon steel comal, the Masa cookbook, organic cotton tortilla warmer pouch, and heirloom masa. Putting it succinctly, it’s quite literally everything you need, including the knowledge of how to make unbelievably perfect tortillas from the comfort of your own home. Learn more at the official Masienda website.
- The Doña Rosa Tortilla Press
The Doña Rosa Tortilla Press is a traditional, built like a tank tortilla press that’s handmade by artisans in Mexico. Forget the cheap tortilla makers on Amazon (yes, I’ve tried them, and they’re garbage) – the Doña Rosa Tortilla Press is in an entirely different league. It’s designed to make perfect tortillas every time, which is precisely what it does, while its sturdy construction ensures it will likely outlast you and your kids.
- Carbon Steel Comal
Once they’re pressed, tortillas need to be cooked. Enter the comal. The carbon steel comal is a flat griddle that is used to cook tortillas and other foods over an open flame. It’s made from high-quality carbon steel that heats evenly and retains heat well, making it perfect for cooking tortillas.
- Masa Cookbook
Knowledge is power, and the Masa Cookbook is going to turn you into the He-Man or She-Ra of tortilla making. The Masa Cookbook is a comprehensive guide to firstly make masa (which is the dough that is used to make tortillas and other corn-based dishes), then transforming it into the actual tortillas/masa-based dishes. It includes step-by-step instructions for making masa from scratch, as well as recipes for different types of tortillas, tamales, and other dishes. And on a more personal note, as someone who owns several Rick Bayless books and never really liked any of them, this book is honestly the book the world has been waiting for when it comes to making tortillas.
- Heirloom Masa
Last but not least, the Cornucopia Kit includes heirloom masa, which is made from corn that is grown using traditional agricultural practices and stone-ground into a fine masa. This masa has a unique flavor and texture that is noticeably better than commercial masa, and it’s perfect for making authentic tortillas and other dishes.
- Organic Cotton Tortilla Warmer Pouch
Toss your fresh tortillas in this custom-made tortilla warmer to keep them perfectly moist and warm until you’re ready to eat.
Photo Credit: Monica Godefroy
In addition to the Cornucopia kit, Masienda offers a variety of other products for chefs and home cooks, with one of their most popular items being the molcajete. Designed by artisan Don Enrique of San Salvador El Seco, Puebla,the molcajete is a beautiful and authentic piece of Mexican kitchenware that’s perfect for grinding and mixing herbs, spices, and other ingredients. Made from volcanic rock, this traditional mortar and pestle is a statement piece of the highest-quality – one that I will happily keep forever.
One of the things that stands out about the Molcajete from Masienda is its size, measuring 8 inches in diameter, which is larger than many other molcajetes you’ll find. This gives you plenty of space to grind and mix your ingredients, and makes it easy to prepare larger batches of salsas, guacamole, and other dishes. The size of the molcajete also adds to the weight, giving it the perfect amount of stability and preventing it from moving around on the counter during use or tipping over when used as a serving dish. And you will definitely want to use it as a serving dish, as the Molcajete from Masienda is simply beautiful. The natural texture and coloring of the volcanic rock gives a rustic and authentic look that’s perfect for any kitchen or table. Learn more at the official Masienda website.
History of Masa: A Celebration of Mexico’s Time-Honored Culinary Tradition
Masa, the ancient dough used to make tortillas, tamales, and other Mexican culinary delights, has been a dietary staple in Mexico for thousands of years. Its roots can be traced back to the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica, where maize was not only a food source but also a cultural and spiritual symbol.
Masienda Heirloom Masa is a brand that celebrates this rich culinary heritage by producing artisanal masa made from heirloom varieties of corn grown in Mexico
The Aztecs, who ruled over central Mexico from the 14th to the 16th century, were renowned for their advanced agricultural practices, including the cultivation of maize. They developed various techniques for processing maize, such as nixtamalization, which involves cooking the kernels in an alkaline solution made from lime or ash. This process not only softened the maize but also improved its nutritional value, making it easier to digest and enhancing its essential vitamins and minerals.
The resulting dough, known as masa, was used to make tortillas, the ubiquitous flatbread that has become synonymous with Mexican cuisine. The Aztecs believed that maize was a gift from the gods and that tortillas represented the sun, the center of their universe. They consumed them in large quantities, often accompanied by beans, chilies, and other ingredients.
After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, new ingredients and cooking techniques were introduced, but the use of masa remained a central element of Mexican cuisine. Today, masa is still made using traditional methods in many parts of Mexico, with variations in texture, flavor, and color depending on the region and the type of corn used.
It’s this rich culinary heritage that Masienda celebrates by producing artisanal masa made from heirloom varieties of corn. These varieties, which have been passed down from generation to generation, have unique characteristics that contribute to the flavor and texture of the masa. One of the critical aspects of Masienda’s approach is the use of nixtamalization, the ancient technique developed by the Aztecs. This process not only enhances the nutritional value of the corn but also improves its flavor and aroma, giving the masa a distinctive character.
Another essential element of Masienda’s philosophy is the promotion of sustainable farming practices and the support of small-scale farmers in Mexico. By working directly with these farmers, Masienda ensures that the corn is grown using environmentally friendly methods and that the farmers receive fair prices for their products.
Masienda offers a range of masa varieties, including white, blue, and red, each with its own unique flavor profile. These masas can be used to make traditional Mexican dishes such as tortillas, tamales, sopes, and gorditas, as well as innovative creations that showcase the versatility of this ancient ingredient.
Masienda is a brand that is dedicated to promoting biodiversity and preserving cultural traditions in the food system, and that’s something we as a society need to support. Their focus on heirloom corn and traditional agricultural practices is a reminder of the importance of preserving our culinary heritage. The Cornucopia kit, with its Doña Rosa Tortilla Press, carbon steel comal, Masa cookbook, organic cotton tortilla warmer pouch, and heirloom masa, is a must have for any beginner or expert tortilla maker that desires a taste of tradition.
You can learn more about Masienda and their full lineup of products at the official Masienda website.