Ever since I was little I remember eating tamales during Christmastime. I never knew where they came from, either from a family member, a friend of my dad’s, or from some co-worker of my moms. So when I say a Mexican Christmas tradition, I mean eating tamales.
You know the saying, how life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re gonna get? Same for tamales. You never know until you take that first initial bite. Some people make em’ really skinny, other’s make em’ fat with lots of meat or lots of masa. Some make em’ spicy, some hardly have no flavor, some just right. It’s serious business I tell ya!
This past December, we decided to start our own little 4 generation tradition of making tamales….my mom, my grandmother, my daughter & myself but things don’t always work out, especially over here @ M.Perfect Living. Jayde was running a fever & feeling too sick to help out, but she watched from a distance.
My mom had 2 huge packs of pork shoulder that she cooked & seasoned for the tamales the night before she came over. Now I know why people only make them only once a year. They take a full day to make.
We all met up here at my dining room table, had lots of laughs and chats about previous times tamales were made. My mom has only made them 2 other times before and my grandma, she can’t even count how many.
My mom actually scoured the internet for a really good recipe/method she wanted to use so we just took direction from her and did what she told us to do. You would think my grandma would have a tried & true recipe passed down from generations but alas…she said it was all from memory & dang…her memory aint all that it used to be. We still love ya granny!
First we filled a sink full of warm water to soak the corn husks in.
Getting the masa ready.
Mixing it thoroughly.
Melting the lard.
Pouring in the pork lard.
And Good Lawd was there was a ton of lard that was used. I knew that lard was used but I didn’t know that much! My stomach kinda churned as I thought about that…then, when they were done…not so much. Heck, I’ve eaten for years & thought they were delicious, surely I can’t let cups upon cups of melted lard keep me from eating em’ this time.
Adding broth to the masa.
Mixing the masa like a mad
This is what memories are made of.
Spreading it thinly, but not too much.
While we spread, mom added the meat & rolled em’ up.
Stackin’ them malies.
Gotta stand em’ up like this.
And then all that hard work paid off. Can you see the lard glistenin’ off my fingers? Ooo wee! Look how meaty they are.
Not like some that Stephen bought for me the day after Thanksgiving from some guy selling em’ outside of Home Depot. They only had a smidge of meat & mostly only masa. At $8 a dozen…. total rip-off.
Here is the recipe we used.
|5 to 6 lb
||pork shoulder, cooled and shredded in small pieces,
|2 & 1/2 gal
||salted water (2 tsp) to cook the pork shoulder
||fresh garlic cloves smashed or chrushed
||dried ancho chiles, seeds & stems removed
||water salted with (1 tsp salt) to boil the dried chiles
||onion peeled and quarted
||fresh garlic peeled seperated
|2 or 3 c
||ground corn masa or 1 large bags (4.4 lb) maseca instant corn masa flour
|4 to/6 Tbsp
||salt to suit your taste
|10 to 12 c
|3 1/4 lb
||dried corn husks opened and soaked in hot water.
||tamale steamer or a very large deep pot such as a lobster or crab steamer with a lid.
The Meat: Cook pork shoulder in a deep pot covered with the water. Add the quartered onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and cumin. For added flavor, add a tsp of granulated garlic powder to the water. Bring to a boil then skim the layer off the top. Reduce heat and simmer about 4 or 5 hours. Meat must be falling off the bone tender. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate overnight (if not using right away) shred meat with two forks. Do not remove the congealed fat from the cold broth. You will need this extra fat to make your masa tender.
The Red Chile Sauce (or red tamale sauce) to flavor the pork meat. Remove stems and all the seeds from the ancho chiles. Put the dried chiles on large baking sheet drizzled with a little olive oil. put into a preheated hot oven moderate heat for a few minutes such as 2 1/2 minutes then open oven and turn chiles on the other side and roast 2 1/2 minutes more. Be very careful not to scorch the chiles if they scorch they will turn bitter and you will have to start over. They scorch and burn very easily so you must watch them closely. This roasting step brings out the deep rich chile flavor. Remove from the oven do not leave in more the 5 minutes total time. Put the roasted chiles in a pot and cover with water add a tsp of salt to the water and add the onion and garlic. Bring the chiles to a boil reduce heat and steady simmer for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes have passed shut off heat and let cool in their water until they are reasonably able to handle. Next in a blender add half the chiles, half the cooked onion, two cooked garlic cloves and process until the chile is throughly blended into a paste. Then add half the teaspoon of cumin powder and a little pork broth, (about a half cup) and blend on high until smooth. With a rubber spatula scrape out the chile paste and proceed with the rest of the chiles. remaining onion and garlic, cloves and the other half of cumin powder. Add a little more pork broth about half a cup and process until smooth.
Start with one cup of your red chile sauce and add it to you shredded meat mixture. You should make sure your meat is warm as it will be easier to mix rather than cold from the refrigerator. Mix your cup of chile paste with the meat and continue to add more chile paste until your meat is moist and saucy but not soupy. If your sauce is a little dry, add a little more pork broth to it then mix well and incorporate into your meat. Your meat should look like a saucy, pulled pork consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. If you have red chile sauce left over put in small freezer bags, freeze and save for making enchilada sauce or mole. You’re meat is now ready to fill the tamales. Set aside.
The Masa: Using a large roaster deep pan now take your 4.4 pound bag of Maseca or 5 lbs of ground masa if you are lucky enough to find it. Add your Maseca to or ground masa to the deep pan add the melted pork lard should be cool enough to handle and add the pork broth by the cupful make sure it is very warm it should not be hot. You should be able to handle the mixing with your hands. (Note: for this recipe pork lard is what gives these tamales the rich delicious flavor. No amount of Crisco or other fat will accomplish the incredible flavor the pork lard gives Mexican Tamales. With that I leave you to make your decision as to what fat to use.) I like to melt my pork fat in the microwave let it cool. Add your salt and baking powder with the pork broth. Mix again. Do this by hand. It can be very tiresome so be sure to share the workload with anyone else that happens to be in the vicinity. Clean hands only please. :) Add the broth lard salt and baking powder. If using the Maseca add cupfuls of broth one at a time until you have a nice spreadable consistency. Taste the masa to make sure it has enough salt. Your masa should have the consistency of a thick soft creamy oat meal or better yet like a think creamy polenta. Set Masa aside and prepare the corn husks.
The Corn Husks: Remove corn husks and clean and remove any dried corn silk. Fill a sink full of hot water & let soak for 15 minutes or longer. Remove a large handful and wring the water out by squeezing the husks. Lay in a tray and with a clean dish towel blot the excess water from them. Keep them covered so they do not dry out. Now you are ready for spreading the masa on the husk. Take a butter knife, back of a spoon, or any kind of flat spreader and dip in the masa and get a nice amount and spread on the husk to cover the entire bottom half leaving the top triangle part of the husk bare. Spread like if you would be spreading peanut butter on bread. About a little less than 1/4 inch thick on your husk do not spread all the way to the ends of the husk. Now take a good size tablespoon (or more if you like) of meat mixture and lay down the center of the prepared masa husk. Fold one edge of the husk over the other to form a slender tamale. The overlapping masa will help to keep the tamales together. Next fold the top half over the tamales itself and lay seam down. Do all of your tamales like this until you have enough to put and stack in a steamer pot to cook.
Cooking your tamales: If you have a tamale steamer pot,add boiling water to the bottom half and stack the tamales standing up in a circular layers with the open side up. Then on top of those, another circular row, always standing up the open side facing up. Pour the hot water down the side when adding more water. The tamales should never be emersed in water. They cook by steaming. Cover the layers with loose tamales husks and a clean dish towel over everything and then cover with the lid. Enough water should be at the bottom to steam the tamales for 1 & 1/2 hours to ensure complete cooking. Make sure you check on it to be sure that the water doesn’t fully evaporate. Be sure to add more during steam time. After the time has elapsed shut off and uncover the pot let cool. Remove with tongs as the tamales will be extremely hot. When they have cooled you can bag and freeze them. Always leave your tamales in the husk when freezing and remove the husk to eat. You can heat in the microwave or do like I do and warm some up on a skillet & roll around till the husk gets nice & charred. I eat mine with regular tomato sauce that I heat up and add some hot sauce to make it kinda spicy.
Alternate method: If you don’t have a tamale steamer you can use a large regular steamer pot such as a crab pot or large lobster pot. Put a large bowl in the middle and some sort of perforated pie pan on top. Take two large aluminum pie tins and put holes in all around. Put the pie tin over the bowl so the tamales will be above the water. Then stack the tamales standing up inclining a little towards the center in a circular position. Put a large mug in the middle of the pie pan so the tamales can rest against it and work around stacking the tamales.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and make some memories of your own.
recipe adapted from: