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Thread: How to make Potash (if you like corn, you better read)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Lysander's Avatar

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    How to make Potash (if you like corn, you better read)

    Ok, so after talking with Mark in another thread, it dawned on me that there are probably no small number of folks here who have no idea how to prepare corn, much less other grains, for grinding.

    I covered how to "crack" corn out of it's husk in that thread, but I'll cover how to actually make potash here.

    Potash, essentially, is the first base that man discovered. It's what's left when you burn word and then soak the ashes in water. Welcome to the wonderful world of lye (also handy for soap making). Caveman to Chemistry covers this in depth.

    Here's the short and sweet of it:

    burn a big pile of wood to ashes. MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO PLASTICS OR OTHER CONTAINMENTS IN THIS WOOD OR YOU WILL DIE. Then scoop up the ashes and put them in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Eventually, the water soluable potassium and sodium salts will separate and the junk will float to the bottom. Pour this through a mesh strainer and use the limewater to crack corn kernels for grinding. You can also use the the lye for making your own soap and the ashes also make good fertilizer.

    Lye/limewater is a deadly poison and will kill you, your children, and your little dog too. Keep them out of it, dispose of it away from your sources of drinking water, and make sure nobody drinks it.
    Last edited by Lysander; 03-12-2011 at 02:59 PM.
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  2. #2
    very helpful thank you . A+ !

  3. #3
    Team GunsNet Bronze 07/2011

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    I think I'm missing something here. How do you use the limewater to process grains for grinding, when its a deadly poison?

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    Senior Member Lysander's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dafapa View Post
    I think I'm missing something here. How do you use the limewater to process grains for grinding, when its a deadly poison?
    They won't absorb the lye, just the water. The lye weakens the husk enough to slough it off as the kernel absorbs the water. What makes lye so bad is that it is a base, think quicklime. If you drink it, the lye would literally destroy your esophagus.
    Last edited by Lysander; 03-13-2011 at 07:15 AM.
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  5. #5
    Lysander,

    Thanks for taking the time to explain what Potash is...

    But what's wrong with grinding the whole kernel even with the husk? Just a little extra fiber I would think? (Edit, just read your other post in my other thread... bitter taste, but is okay to consume right?)

    So if you soak dry corn kernels in the Potash water... soak 2-3 days, then rinse 2-3 times with fresh water each time, then how do you separate the husks from the portion of the kernel you want? Each one by hand? Or let dry then toss like chaffing wheat to the wind?

    I'm thinking that if you're making a meal or grain for grits/bread... you're probably only dealing with 8-10 cups of grains anyways, maybe hand cleaning won't take that long?
    Last edited by Mark Ducati; 03-12-2011 at 07:19 PM.

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    Senior Member Lysander's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Ducati View Post
    Lysander,

    Thanks for taking the time to explain what Potash is...

    But what's wrong with grinding the whole kernel even with the husk? Just a little extra fiber I would think? (Edit, just read your other post in my other thread... bitter taste, but is okay to consume right?)

    So if you soak dry corn kernels in the Potash water... soak 2-3 days, then rinse 2-3 times with fresh water each time, then how do you separate the husks from the portion of the kernel you want? Each one by hand? Or let dry then toss like chaffing wheat to the wind?

    I'm thinking that if you're making a meal or grain for grits/bread... you're probably only dealing with 8-10 cups of grains anyways, maybe hand cleaning won't take that long?

    Mark,

    It's a very, very bitter taste. Plus, this also rehydrate's the kernel and expands it to 2-4 times it's normal size. Also, the husk falls away from the kernel, so it's no big deal. This is for dried grain, btw, not straight off the cob. Think popcorn kernels.
    Because you suck. And I hate you.

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  7. #7
    Lysander,

    You obviously know a lot about this... but do you have any idea/info what the indians and early hispanics did with their corn/maze? Did they hydrate the corn in potash too? Maybe their "corn bread" and "tortillas" were just bitter then?

    And FWIW, I've read a lot about making moonshine.... there are recipes out there where some folks use "deer corn" or "corn feed" that's pre-bagged.... they soak the bag 2-3 days in water to get the corn to start converting the starch into sugar and when it starts getting the little green sprout, they clip those off as that part its said gives a bitter taste with fermentation.

    Seems pretty labor intensive to clip all those little green things to make corn mash... I've also seen some shine recipes where folks just crack the whole grain as is get by with what sugar is present in that state, but also add a little supplemental table sugar to help the fermentation process and production of ethanol.
    Last edited by Mark Ducati; 03-13-2011 at 02:15 PM.

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    Senior Member Lysander's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Ducati View Post
    Lysander,

    You obviously know a lot about this... but do you have any idea/info what the indians and early hispanics did with their corn/maze? Did they hydrate the corn in potash too? Maybe their "corn bread" and "tortillas" were just bitter then?
    Who do you think taught the Spanish and everyone else what to do? Cracking kernels with lye/potash goes back as long as corn has been ground. Hominy goes back about 3,000 years, if not longer. It kills the germ, and makes it easier to store long term, and gets rid of the husk.
    Because you suck. And I hate you.

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  9. #9
    I belive the native americans used the dried corn to put into a stone type rock that was a bowl... an used a speical rock to grind the corn into corn meal.... i dont remeber what the inidian name is for this device....

    I belive the indians used the corn meal mash an mixed it with hot water so it turned into like a tamalie type paste.. once formed they would put deer meat cooked into the middle of the tamalie paste then wrap it with the corn husks..

    Think tamales... the indian way...

  10. #10
    Senior Member Lysander's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by romak10/63UF View Post
    I belive the native americans used the dried corn to put into a stone type rock that was a bowl... an used a speical rock to grind the corn into corn meal.... i dont remeber what the inidian name is for this device....

    I belive the indians used the corn meal mash an mixed it with hot water so it turned into like a tamalie type paste.. once formed they would put deer meat cooked into the middle of the tamalie paste then wrap it with the corn husks..
    Sounds like you're describing arepas/pupusas made using a pilon. Note, non-nixtamalized corn flour has a lower nutritional value than nixtamalized corn flour. Starting with about half the net protein value.

    FYI, using unpolished and porous stone to grind any type of flour/meal results in some really fun dental and digestive issues. There's a reason why most natives switched over to wood pilon's. I have a polished marble mortar and pestle I use for this type of stuff. Can't make anything in bulk, but it's fun to play around with in the kitchen.
    Because you suck. And I hate you.

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    "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression." - Thomas Paine

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  11. #11
    This process is also how you make Hominy if any of you like corn like that. I love Hominy and remember my grandmother making it with Lye water back when I was a kid.
    Wear gloves. Try not to splash it around.

  12. #12

    Lightbulb Potash is more than one compound

    Potash, especially that derived from wood ashes, is usually a mixture of potassium carbonate (K2CO3) and potassium hydroxide (KOH).
    The hydroxide is the "lye" you need to be aware of but you can also find it (along with sodium hydroxide) in crystal Drano.

    The grinding stone with the depression "romak10" is referring to is called a "metate". They used a smaller stone in their hands for the actual grinding. They were actually wearing away the stone and the people ate it that way. The stone grit ended up doing a number on their teeth as a result.
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    Senior Member Partisan1983's Avatar

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