A veteran-owned company in Syracuse is changing how customers get their tortillas by making their own in the Salt City.
The company, which began selling tortillas earlier this year, is operated by Casey and Katie Masters, who both served in the Air Force.
“Caz Tortilla started kind of as a joke between my wife and I,” Casey Masters said. “We moved here from New Mexico where it’s very common for your local supermarket to make tortillas fresh right in front of you and no one has that here, so we started making tortillas at home.”
Unlike many prepackaged tortillas, Caz does not use preservatives or added sugar, Masters said.
“We only use simple ingredients,” he said. “For the corn tortillas, there are three ingredients. For the flour tortillas, there are five ingredients and you have all of these on the shelf in your pantry right now.”
Currently they sell their products in Green Hills Farms and the Curd Nerd in Syracuse; 20/East and Heart Stone Bakery in Cazenovia; and Off the Muck in Canastota. They also have products available at their production facility on Burnett Avenue in Syracuse.
Area restaurants such as Mad Tacos in Nelson and Mamasitas Puerto Rican Kitchen in Syracuse also feature Caz tortillas. They make approximately 13,000 tortillas per week.
While they have seen success, they have also experienced challenges along the way.
“There have been some real struggles to get supplies when we need them, which has in the past caused us to have to stockpile, which is not our preference. It’s a very small facility,” Masters said. “We’ve had a six-week lag time in getting corn from Texas and we have seen some price shocks when we go to reorder, which unfortunately, we have to pass onto our customers.”
They have two ovens, one for their corn tortillas and one for flour to prevent cross-contamination of allergens.
Historically, corn tortillas are made from ground corn kernels that are soaked overnight in an alkali solution, but Caz Tortilla Company gets a pre-dehydrated product called Maseca.
“We add water to it to make that paste that you then extrude through two roller heads and there’s a tortilla shaped cutter that will make the tortilla shape then it goes through three passes in the oven,” Masters said.
He explained that the first two passes sear the outside of the tortilla and the third will trap water to make steam and puff up the tortilla into a dough pocket. From there, it goes onto a cooler conveyer, so the tortillas don’t burn through the packaging.
Their flour tortillas begin with weighing and mixing the dry ingredients and then are portioned out with a machine into dough balls that sit on racks for about 30 minutes before being baked.
“The oven works a little differently for flour tortillas – it’s called the hot press method,” Masters said. “We’ll be dropping the dough balls in onto the top of the press as it opens up, they fall in, and it closes giving it the shape of a tortilla as well as searing the edges.”
The flour tortillas go through two passes in the oven before heading to the cooling conveyor for packaging.
Masters says that his favorite thing about operating this company is the relationships he has made with other small business owners.
“There’s a whole community of small business owners that you never get to see unless you start talking with the people that are behind the scenes and they have been so supportive and helpful,” he said.