Tamales

This recipe is a lot of work, but it isn’t “hard”.  It’s best to do it over a couple of days.  I’m going to write this recipe just the way I did mine.

You’re going to need a large pot in which you can steam the tamales.  They need to be steamed while standing on their end.  I used this basket in a large canning pot.  You will need to be able to put a couple of inches (or more) of water in the pot, without the water touching the tamales.

For the tamales themselves, you will need:
Corn Husks
MaSeCa
Garlic Powder
Cumin Powder
Salt
Black Pepper
Red Pepper

For the meat mixture, you will need:
Pork Roast or Butt (8 – 10 pounds, depending on the fat content.)  I used a butt.
Corn Oil
Salt
Black Pepper
Red Pepper
Garlic
Cumin Powder
Chili Powder
Paprika

I sometimes add an onion or two, quartered, or various kinds of peppers.  Whatever I have that looks interesting, I will use it.

For the meat, cut the roast into chunks about the size you would serve at a meal.  Put in a pot, cover with water and boil about 2 hours, until the meat is tender.  Keep plenty of water in the pot.  You will need about 2 quarts of broth/liquid to add to the tamales. Do not add salt or pepper or other seasonings.

You could also use the pressure cooker to cook the meat.

Once the meat is tender, remove from the broth.  Save the broth! Put the broth in a bowl or jar and refrigerate so the fat hardens and can be removed.

Shred the meat with your fingers and remove as much fat as possible.

Soak the corn husks in hot water for at least one hour before using them.

To the meat, add:
1/2 cup oil (vegetable or corn)
3 T. chili powder
3 T. cumin powder
3 T. garlic powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. salt
1 T. paprika (we’re not big paprika fans. If you like it . . add more)
1 tsp. red pepper

Mix the meat/seasonings and oil and make sure it’s shredded as well as you can shred it. Set the meat aside and refrigerate it if it’s going to be a while before you use.

For the Masa mixture:
Start with a 4 pound bag of MaSeCa. Pour about half of it into a mixing bowl. I weighed out 2 pounds.

Into that, add:
1 T. paprika (add more if you like more)
3 T. salt
2 T. ground cumin
2 T. chili powder
2 T. garlic powder

Mix all seasonings into the Masa. Add 2 cups vegetable or corn oil. Mix well. At this point, you may want to taste to adjust the seasonings. It’s going to taste very “grainy” but you can get a feel for the seasonings.

Remove any grease that has hardened from the broth. Heat up the broth til it’s warm . . doesn’t need to be hot but just warm.

Start with 2 cups and add broth as needed to get the mixture to the consistency of a thick peanut butter. If you run out of broth, use warm water.  Do not use storebought broth that has salt added; if you know you’re going to use storebought broth, reduce the amount of salt being added to the masa mix.  A ball of the Masa mixture should float in ice water when it’s the right consistency. When I first made tamales, I was surprised at how much liquid I had to add to the mix.

If the Masa mixture is too runny, add more MaSeCa in small amounts til you get it right.  If it’s too dry, add more broth or warm water.

Lay a corn husk out on a flat surface with the skinny end pointing to the left. Spread the mixture from the edge closest to you, to about 1/2″ from the edge fartherest from you. Also, don’t spread the masa on 1/3 of the thin end (bottom).  The Masa mixture expands a little during the cooking.  If you like a whole lot of the cornmeal mixture in your tamales, make it thicker.  If you like less, make it thin.  I made mine about as thin as I could spread it. I use a rubber spatula and after a few batches, you get the hang of it and it goes pretty quickly .. slap the masa on, spread it and on to the next one!

Then lay a thin later of meat is spread in the middle of the tamale.  I found that if some of the husks were really big, I just tore off a little piece from one edge.  No need to have some really big ones and some really small ones.


Start with the edge closest to you and roll up.  Then fold the left end up.  Lay them into a steamer basket, with the seam side down.  Keep stacking them til the basket is full.

Place the basket in the pot with at least a couple of inches of water but don’t let the water touch the bottom of the tamales.  Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover the pot and steam gently for about an hour. Make sure the water doesn’t all boil out of the pot.  Add more water if necessary.


Remove one (or two!).  Let cool and taste to make sure the masa is done (not runny or grainy).  If done, remove from heat and let cool before wrapping for the freezer.

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I’ve never eaten a tamale….and I have no intention to. If I were to find I love them, then I would have to start making them and I don’t need to make one more thing that is so labor intensive. It doesn’t really sound like something I would love so no harm, no foul. But YOU GO RIGHT AHEAD! I love that you share so much with everyone.

    • 1.1

      says

      They seem like a lot of trouble but I can make 7 dozen in one day and when I freeze them in packs of 6, that’s 1 dinner and 1 lunch when it’s just two of us eating so from those 7 dozen tamales, I get 28 meals. When you think about spending one day cooking and getting 28 meals that Vince and Chad (and me) LOVE, it’s not a labor intensive meal at all. I make a large batch of chili and can that so for a tamale dinner, I thaw the tamales, open a can of chili, make a salad and sometimes make cornbread sticks. Quick and easy and so nice to have in the freezer.

      • ruth anne shorter says

        I love that plan, and I am actually going to town where I get everything for this. I can’t wait, and hubby will love this. Plus my kids! How did I forget them!! LOL

  2. 2

    SarahB says

    I’ve had tamales before and I did like them. I had no idea they were corn husks!!!! That’s incredible! I can’t tell you how many corn husks we throw away during sweet corn season. Who knew they could become such good food…. but I agree with Diana W. they do seem a little more labor intensive than I am willing to invest. Especially with canning season coming up. But maybe if I am diligent I could put aside some corn husks to try it some time in the winter. Can they be dried husks? Or do they need to be “fresh”?

    • 2.1

      says

      Sarah,
      The corn husks can be fresh or dried (if you dry them you can make tamales when it is cooler – like December… traditional Mexican Christmas fare). PLEASE NOTE, you don’t actually EAT the corn husks!!! The husks are to hold the tamales together while you are steaming them!!! The masa flour paste isn’t strong enough, and is far too sticky, to support the meat filling until it is cooked. Unroll the corn husk after you have steamed the tamal (onto a plate), and the masa part of the tamal will hold the meat in place. You could serve some red “enchilada sauce”, verde sauce, or even chili if you have that , on the top of the tamales – that makes them more moist and adds flavor.
      Salud!

  3. 3

    says

    Judy,

    Your recipe is wonderful. All my family got together last winter and made tamales using your recipe. We had a great time and made some precious memories along with a whole lot of tamales. I still have a package in the freezer. We finished the day with a tamale dinner and everyone present took packages home for the freezer. Thanks for reminding me of that special day.

  4. 5

    Marilyn says

    Thanks for sharing your recipe for tamales! I have been wanting to make some and now I have a great recipe to make them with! One thing that is worthy of mentioning to someone who has never eaten a tamale before is that you do not eat the corn husk. I have a friend who did not know that. Needless to say she won’t try them again because of her first experience, that corn husk did not taste very good!

  5. 7

    Cindy m says

    I know, if you make a bunch, it really isn’t labor intensive, but for me it would be! So it’s a perfect demonstration why I should really thankful to the vendor at the Farmer’s Market where I often buy a dozen or 2, for taking the time to make these for me! I used to sit by a guy at my office who bought hundreds of them around Christmas from a Mexican family who made them at home and sold them. He’d bring them in the office for us to rebuy from him — coolers full of them. They were terrific.

  6. 8

    Trish says

    Thank You for sharing this recipe. I was going to search for a recipe just the other day and wishing you had it.. lol … Imagine how surprised I was to read this today!!! Thank you for all you share. You have given me lots of new things to try!!

  7. 9

    ruth anne shorter says

    I can’t wait to get what I need tomorrow! thanks from the bottom of my heart—I really love creating memories for my family. Life is full of love and doing things together!! Thank you!

  8. 10

    carol c says

    I ADORE tamales, I cant allow the sauce to be on them, when we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, I order them plain, put a little cheese and hot sauce on top, and I am in heaven. They are very good in the winter to me, but lately I have had the one twice a week and
    can not get tired of them. Rate right up there with pinto beans and cornbread! yum yum

  9. 12

    says

    THANKS JUDY!!!!

    I lived in Southern California for 18 years, and was told that you can’t make tamales unless your mother knew how to make them; it’s a genetic trait. :) And my mom doesn’t make tamales. I’m going to buck the system and make them from your recipe.

    Tamales were a Christmas treat in the communities in SoCal where I lived.

  10. 13

    says

    When I was a little kid, there was a former gas station across the alley from us where a family made and sold tamales. On cold grey west Texas days (when, as the old saying goes “theres’ nothing between the North Pole and Abilene but a barb wire fence, and half the strands of wire are down!”), Mama would sometimes make a pot of pinto beans and we’d walk over and get a dozen tamales. I learned to eat them by crumbling them up into a bowl of pintos. Now I eat them “traditionallly” with chili con queso or chili con carne, and cheese on top…unless I want “comfort food” and make a pot of pintos, so I can eat mine crumbled up in the beans, like Mama showed me.
    Thanx for the memories!

  11. 14

    says

    When I was a little kid, there was a former gas station across the alley from us where a family made and sold tamales. On cold grey west Texas days (when, as the old saying goes “theres’ nothing between the North Pole and Abilene but a barb wire fence, and half the strands of wire are down!”), Mama would sometimes make a pot of pinto beans and we’d walk over and get a dozen tamales. I learned to eat them by crumbling them up into a bowl of pintos. Now I eat them “traditionallly” with chili con queso or chili con carne, and cheese on top…unless I want “comfort food” and make a pot of pintos, so I can eat mine crumbled up in the beans, like Mama showed me.
    Thanx for the memories!

  12. 15

    Cari J. in YC, Cal says

    Judy, thanks for posting the tamale recipe and instructions again. My hubby loved the last ones I made. When my snowbird parents come back I’ll make some for them. They were great to give away to my neighbors at Christmas.
    Good luck on the house hunting,
    Cari