Humita is a type of cooked corn dish that originated in Central and South America. Each country has its own version of humita, although all varieties use a base of ground maize wrapped in corn husks and baked, steamed or boiled until done. The corn can be flavored with sugar, cinnamon or milk to create a sweet, dessert-like snack, or it can have sauteed onions, cheese or hot peppers added to make a more substantial meal. Some additional ingredients include eggs to help solidify the corn, anise for flavor and lard or butter. Depending on what type of humita is made, it can be eaten as a breakfast with toast or bread on the side, or as a lunchtime dish to be served with coffee and possibly hot sauce.
Originally, humita was enjoyed and prepared by the native people of Latin America, although ingredients that were more popular in Europe eventually became part of the cooking tradition. While a humita might look like a tamale, it is actually quite different. Whereas a tamale might use ground, dried cornmeal or flour, humitas use fresh corn and rarely, if ever, include meat as an ingredient. They also are baked in corn husks, whereas tamales may be cooked in corn husks but are often cooked in banana leaves that impart a different overall flavor.
No matter what the other ingredients, making a humita starts with the corn. The recipe calls for the use of maize, which is different from the sweet corn used in other parts of the world. Maize is drier and firmer than the sweet yellow corn common in North America. The maize kernels are either removed from the cob and placed in a food processor or are grated directly off the cob into a bowl. At the same time, the husks from the maize are saved for wrapping the dough with later.
The other ingredients are then added to the dough. Milk, butter or lard is often mixed with the corn to help tenderize it. Savory elements such as onions, peppers and tomatoes can be cooked quickly before being placed in the dough to develop flavors and texture. Sweet humita generally includes evaporated milk and sugar.
Once the dough is ready, it is placed in a corn husk. It can sometimes require two husks to completely seal the dough. There are a number of different methods of folding and filling the husks, but the general concept is to completely contain the dough inside an envelope of husk. After the dough is wrapped, the package can be tied with strips of twine or corn husk.
The packets can be boiled in water, baked in an oven or steamed. They are completed once the dough has become firm and any ingredients on the inside are cooked through. Traditionally, humita can be eaten for breakfast, as a midday snack, or as part of a lunch meal.