It is not enough to talk about the history of humintas going back to Inca times and earlier, but to grasp every ingredient that these delicious corn cakes have. They are an essential, tasty tradition of Cuzco and will soon be available on its streets and in its markets.
The principal ingredient of the huminta is corn. Beginning now, in January, and continuing through February and March, the best kernels of corn are available. They are called maiz wawa, or young corn. This corn is colored white, like milk, and is characterized by a soft skin one each kernel that is easily peeled.
When you taste an huminta it seems the flavor stays on your tongue for a while, as if doing somersaults, until the huminta is completely gone. It is a delicious flavor from the corn, as well as spices like cinnamon, cloves, and of course aniseed.
The flavor also comes from good lard. And, although the corn is light all by itself, people add baking powder to give it just that additional lightness that makes them seem billowy, but without large holes.
Corn husks enfold the huminta. Raw corn dough goes in and out comes a firm but light steamed, corn cake as if from a corn husk mold. In Cuzco these husks are called “pancas”.
With out heat, prefereably from a traditional, Cuzco fogón or open flame stove, the humintas would never cook nor stay warm until it is time for them to leave their well packed womb and go into the world for enjoyment.
Making humintas begins with peeling the grains of fresh corn, one by one, with care. Then they are exposed to the sun to harden. After the sun has done its work, they are placed in a mill or on a batán, a stone, to be finely ground.
The dough is made with essences of aniseed, cinnamon, and clove as well as a bit of lard and baking powder. Then the dough is placed in the husks and we wait until they come from the flame to eat them.
Humintas are served to accompany ponches, coffee, and other hot drinks. They are also found in the mrkets and fairs. There are women with white aprons who offer them from huge pots. As you walk down the street, everytime the lid rises from the pot, you can smell their sent of corn, anise, cinnamon, and clove.