Family traditions – the thing that always makes me wish I was home for the holidays. It is also the thing that I can always be sure will be there. It is the tie to my family, my future family, and my culture. Get your pens/pencils, Command+C, Control+C fingers out for our family recipe for tamales.
The one thing I look forward to most during the holidays is the sheer amount of food that my mother spends oodles of time making from scratch. Bunuelos, pozole, tamales, cookies and cakes, make being on a diet when at home extremely hard.
This year my mom invited my sister and I along for the crazy ride known as making tamales. If you live near the border, you know what they are. Delicious cornmeal with pork and chile wrapped in a cornhusk – a little slice of heaven. The moment that I announced I was in the kitchen with my family we received a barrage of texts, Facebook messages, and emails asking to save them a dozen… or in some cases, 3.
Let me tell you a little about what goes into making these babies. When you don’t have a small army of quick and nimble abuelitas (grandmas) and the right tools, tamales take forever. They have it down to a fine art. $5 for a dozen? In the future I’ll be buying them – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to understand how to make them.
Ours were different. Sure, they were made with love and all that BS – but most of all, my sister and I got to be a bit absurd with the amount of meat and yumminess we put in them. All those $5 dozens don’t compare. We were putting 3 tamales into 1 (and in the end calculated our time and effort at something like $15 a dozen).
9 hours after my mom finished cooking, shredding, and chile-ing the meat, we picked up the assembly line portion. 165 tamales and 5 hours later we put in the last batch to be steamed and ravenously tore open a couple… for, umm… you know – quality control.
But without further ado, I bring you my family recipe for tamales. It has been tried and tested over the past 20 years into perfection.
Oh, and if you’re squeamish about lard you may want to stop eating them.
Do day before: Boil with lots of water, some salt (guesstimate about a tablespoon), and 3 cloves of chopped garlic – a large pork roast with bone Cook until it is falling apart. This can be done in a large slow cooker or a large pot with cover. When done, take meat out and de-bone it. Shred meat and a little of the fat. Store in covered dish and save the broth. Only discard the bone and the big chunks of fat.
Day of making the tamales:
First make chile:
- 8 chiles Anchos
- 8 chiles Guajilos
Cut off stem and take out seeds/veins. Boil the chiles until they are soft. Blend in blender with some pork/chicken broth, cumin, salt and garlic (to taste). If chile comes out too hot you can mix in a can of tomato sauce to tame the flavor. 16 chiles make a lot so you may have to do half at a time. Consistency should be pretty thick not too watery.
Second mix the meat with the chile and simmer until it is ready for tamales. You may have left over chile. Make sure that the shredded meat is saturated with the chile otherwise they will come out dry. Mix now and then so it won’t stick to pot. Keep covered. When done, set aside.
Third prepare the corn husks. Wash and spread out in sink in plenty of water.
Fourth prepare the masa. 5 pounds (*masa is the “dough” and you can find it at your local Mexican food grocer.*)
Mix masa with:
- 2 tablespoons of baking powder
- 1 tsp of cumin
- 1 3/4 tablespoons of salt (more if needed) Taste
After mixing thoroughly, knead in 2-3 cups of lard or Crisco shortening. Add broth from the pork roast and knead until the consistency is right for spreading on the corn husks.
Last get a large group of family or friends to help spread masa on husks and then put the meat/chile in the middle, wrap and fold.
Use a pot made for tamale cooking or rig a regular large pan so that water can be poured at bottom to steam the tamales. Arrange tamales so that steam can go between them. Large pot of tamales takes about 1 hour to cook. Check the tamales after 40 minutes or so to see if they are done. It depends on how many tamales you are cooking at a time. When done – serve them hot.
Say, “Que ricos!”