A Mexican Market Glossary
Some of the Mexican ingredients mentioned in our recipes may be unfamiliar. They're well worth looking for; ask for them at a Mexican or Hispanic grocery store.
CAL (calcium hydroxide): Also known as slaked lime, pickling lime, or mason's lime, this white, powdery substance is boiled with field corn to prepare it for masa (see below). It's also sometimes added directly to masa, giving the dough a lively springiness on the tongue.
CANELA (true cinnamon): These shaggy pieces of bark are softer in texture and flavor than the ''cinnamon''—actually cassia—commonly found in American markets. Grinds easily in a spice mill.
HOJAS DE MILPA (corn leaves): Because the leaves are smooth, it's easier to spread masa thinly and evenly over them than over corn husks.
MANTECA (lard): Fresh lard is rich and flavorful. Grocery store lard tends to be overprocessed and bland, so buy lard at butchers' shops.
MASA (freshly ground corn dough): A dense, smooth dough used for tortillas and tamales, made from dried field corn boiled with cal (see above) to help remove the outer hulls, and then ground. Very perishable. (Refrigerated, it will keep for a couple of days.)
MASA HARINA (powdered dehydrated masa): Reconstitute with water. The dough won't be as smooth as fresh masa, but is still quite flavorful.
QUESO AÑEJO (aged cows'-milk cheese): Has a crumbly texture and sharp parmesan-like flavor.
TEQUESQUITE (an alkaline salt): Comes in lump form and often contains debris, which settles out when it is dissolved in water. Used for leavening tamales and for cooking corn and beans.