The Tortilla maker:

 

A tortilla-maker is a machine used to mass produce tortillas. Their use is widespread in Mexico and in the south of the United States, especially in the state of California. Tortilla-making machines receive the nixtamalised corn dough, press it flat and cut it into the shape of thin tortillas. The tortillas are then placed on a metal conveyor belt and taken to an oven where they are baked. The tortillas are then deposited one by one on a container to later be dispensed to the consumer. The tortillas are sold by weight and not by quantity.

 
 

 

Evolution of the tortilla-making machine:

 

The first Mexican tortilla-making machine was invented and installed by Everardo Rodriguez Arce and his associate, Luis Romero, in 1904. In 1905, Ramon Benitez manufactured the first device for practical use. In 1910 Luis Romero marked another step in the manufacture of tortillas with his machine with rollers, wires to remove the tortilla and moulds. In 1915, the “La India S.A.” company incorporated continuous tortilla baking using a wood or coal heated vertical cylindrical oven, with a rotary circular cover where the tortillas were tossed or removed. In 1920 C. Celorio and A.S. Olague incorporated a belt into the machine that ran through a tunnel with gas burners distributed along its length. This was the first time that gas was used. In 1921 Luis Romero’s electrically-activated and oil-heated tubular machine saw the light. In 1947 Fausto Celorio invented the first automatic machine to mechanically reproduce traditional tortilla baking. This was a roller machine that moulded the tortilla, using wires to remove them, but the invention had temperature control problems so a considerable amount of product was wasted.

In 1959 Fausto Celorio invented and launched onto the market a piped gas driven machine with extrusion system and flat frame. In 1963 Fausto Celorio carried out several improvements to the machine, above all to the frame, transforming it into gas conductor, and the first duplex machine appeared on the market, producing 132 kilos of tortillas per hour. In 1975 Fausto Celorio invented the new Celorio machine known as low calorie. The simple model produced 100 kg of tortillas per hour and the duplex model produced 200 kg of tortillas per hour. This model, as its name indicates, considerably reduced the gas consumption, ensuring that with this system it used 50% less gas than any other machine that existed on the market.

In 1995, in view of the market need to produce an intermediate machine between the simple and the duplex machine, Fausto Celorio invented and launched onto the market a machine that produced 131 kg. of tortillas per hour, the 100-K machine. In 1996, improvements were incorporated into the headpiece of machine models 70-K, 100-K, 130-K, shafts were reinforced as well as other parts that enabled working with either corn meal or nixtamalised dough or a mixture of the two without any special adaptation.

In 1998, the Celorio company launched the innovative automatic electronic ignition system onto the market, which did not require the use of a lighter to ignite the machine. New covers were also placed on the oven to further reduce gas consumption. In 2001, the Celorio company invented and launched its new tortilla-making machine model, the compact EH-1800, onto the world market. This machine incorporates a revolutionary horizontal extrusion system and a shorter frame; it reduces the consumption of refractions and the consumption of gas.

A curious fact is that the first tortillas produced by the machine were square-shaped, an ideal shape, according to the inventor, because it was perfect for tacos, but due to the deeply-rooted tradition of their circular shape, a special device had to be adapted.

 

 
 
Mexican Tortillas Meet
the Machine Age:
   

Like shoes in a modern factory, the tortillas pour from the ovens on a conveyor.

   

By Jack B. Kemmerer

The pre-Cortes inhabitants of Mexico invented the famous tortillas of that country between 2000 and 1000 B.C., when most historians agree that corn began to be cultivated in Guatemala and in southern Mexico.

The ancient method of making tortillas by hand had never changed until recently. Now, the tortilla has met the machine age.

The El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles uses an automatic machine that has reduced the production cost of tortillas by 30 percent. The dough is put in one end of the machine and a perfectly cooked, ready-to-eat tortilla comes out at the other end. This machine has made more than six million tortillas in the last three years. An expert can make about eight dozen tortillas per hour by hand while the machine makes 100 dozen.
 

 
 

The corn, the raw material for tortillas, is ground
in this mill to make the “nixtamal”.

     

These are the grindstones called “canteras”.
They are porous and are water-cooled.

 

After grinding, the corn is kneaded.

 

Although the methods of making and cooking have changed, the tortilla is the same. Corn, powdered lime and water were used more than 3000 years ago. These same ingredients are used today.

The dried corn and lime are cooked slowly for several hours to soften the hull of the corn. After cooking, the grain sets overnight and is ground the following morning.

Grinding is done by a machine that uses two rotating porous stones. These stones, called “canteras” are only found in Mexico. A stream of cool water flows over the stones during the grinding. The water goes through the porous stones, keeping them cool and at the same time adds the required amount of water to the dough or “nixtamal”. If the stones were to get hot during the grinding, the corn would be overcooked.

After grinding, the “nixtamal” is rinsed to remove part of the hull, the remainder is left in the dough to add body to the finished tortilla. The “nixtamal” is then kneaded into a stiff dough in a mixer. It is then ready for the tortilla machine.
 

   

 

 

Placed in cutter, coming out tortilla-shaped

 

Close-up of the cutter. The disc rotates against the front roller, cutting one tortilla in each turn.

 

From the cutter, the tortillas are carried through three gas ovens for baking. The complete machine is shown in this photo.

 

The dough, placed in the hopper of the machine, is rolled flat by two bronze rollers. These rollers are adjustable and the dough may be rolled to any thickness.

The cutter, which is a curved disc located below the rollers, rotates against the front roller and cuts a tortilla with each turn. After being cut, the tortillas are taken on a canvas belt to the first oven.

The three gas ovens are located one above the other. Each oven has an endless asbestos belt that carries the tortilla through it.

 
 

After they have cooled, the tortillas are carefully wrapped in waxed paper for delivery.

 

As the tortilla leaves the first oven it turns over and falls to the oven below. From there it goes to the third oven, from where it falls onto a canvas belt that removes it from the machine. This entire operation takes just sixty seconds.

As the tortillas leave the machine they are puffed up to about three times their normal size. When cool they resume their normal thickness. When this time comes, the tortillas are wrapped in waxed paper, ready for delivery.

The tortilla is rather stiff which is advantageous, because it is also used as an eating utensil. Tortillas are used as plates for salads, “moles” and meat, a practical application as the utensils are then eaten at the same time as the food they contain.

 

 

Chronology

 

The flour tortilla celebrated its 462nd anniversary in 2004.

- 1542 The conquistadors introduce the wheat seed and as they cannot find the necessary ingredients to make bread, Spaniards living in Sonora start to manufacture the “zaruki” a mixture of broken wheat with water, which later became the flour tortilla.

- 1849 A dish prepared with flour tortilla and filled with meat appears in the northern states of Mexico and Texas, which would later receive the name of “burritos”.

- 1947 Ramona Bañuelos, from Jalisco, founds La Tapatia, in San Antonio, Texas, the first brand of flour tortillas in the United States. They were prepared by hand. In the 1970s she became treasurer of that country.

- 1972 VIllamex registered the first patent for the machine to make industrialised wheat tortillas.

- 1978 Bimbo launches the brand Tía Rosa onto the market.

- 1983 Self-service shops in the country start to sell flour tortillas produced at their own facilities.

- 1983 The flour tortilla reaches Europe; England is the landing area.

- 1984 The president, Miguel de la Madrid, refuses subsidies to produce the soy-enriched flour tortillas as a food option in Mexico.

- 1993 China starts to manufacture the Mexican flour tortilla.


Sources: Chronicles of Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Manuel Villagómez, TIA and Tortilla Topics