Ok, so first off, I have to admit I didn’t think I liked Tamales. The only one I had ever tried was too spicy for my taste.
Then, came the day that everything changed… I was re-introduced to tamales a year or so ago when a local lady came to the farmers market with an ice chest full of love. I was very cautious, asking her how spicy they were… She said they were “mild”, so I tried one of her samples. Wholly-yummy-party-in-my-mouth! So I purchased a dozen tamales from her to take home and share with Tommy. We even took a few on a picnic the next day.
Now, I’m not sure how I got this impression, but I had it in my mind that Tommy didn’t really care that much for them. Not that he didn’t like them per se, just that he could take them or leave them. So we (I) ate the rest of them and then didn’t think any more about tamales. Luckily, I was wrong in this assumption, Tommy really likes them too. He just wants his covered in hot sauce or spicy salsa. I keep telling him he’s killed his taste buds and that’s why he needs to put hot sauce on everything, but he doesn’t listen to me.
A couple of months ago, I noticed that our grocery store carried tamales. Six pork tamales for ~$8. Not a bad price, so I tried them, and they are really good! I didn’t really hold out much hope for mass produced tamales.
OK, so confession time: I have a tendency to discover some new food and then binge on it for several months straight and then get sick of it and not want it again for a long time. Tommy hates this about me, since he can eat the same thing every day ad infinitum and never get tired of it. I’m trying really hard NOT to let tamales fall into this category.
We just got back from a trip to Tucson to visit his grandma, aunt & uncle, and cousin and his wife. In Tucson, there is a (several actually, I think it’s a local chain) lovely restaurant called Tucson Tamale. It happened to be next door to a Jamba Juice, which was our primary reason for our visit to that particular shopping center. So I convinced Tommy to try them for lunch, and again, YUMMY-YUMMY, love wrapped up in a corn husk! We of course returned several more times to this shopping center during our 3 day trip to Tucson. I mean, come-on, Jamba Juice and Tamales in one spot! I could live there forever and be happy. Until the burn out mentioned above occurred, but we won’t talk about that.
So now, I have decided that home made tamales will be a worthy endeavor, especially considering that they FREEZE! Can you imagine, pork tamales, made by yours truly, whenever we want them! If they last long enough to make it in the freezer, that is. So after much research on ingredients and technique, I will be experimenting with making tamales of my very own. Of course all my research has taught me that planning is an integral part of tamale making. Tamale making being a very time consuming task. So as I write this, I’m going to outline my “plan”, since I haven’t made them yet, and then we’ll see how close to reality my plan is, after completion.
- Make the pork in the crock pot. Let it cook all day until tender, I’ll probably follow the same basic technique as the Pulled Pork recipe I shared a month or so ago.
- Make the sauce. I’m interested to see what our local grocery store carries in the way of dried chilies. Our grocery store has a section of Mexican food items, spices etc. so we’ll see what kind of choices they have in the dried chile department.
- Make the masa.
- Shred the pork and combine with the sauce
- Roll the tamales, steam the tamales, eat the tamales (hopefully not all at once!)
So after my grand planning, the tamale making actually went something like this:
- Shop for ingredients Thursday night (I was planning to shop on Wednesday, cook the pork during the day Thursday, but that didn’t happen)
- Put the pork in the crock pot around 8 pm that evening, cook it all night
- Friday morning turn off the crock pot, transfer the cooked pork to the bowl of my stand mixer and allow to cool
- Strain the juice from the pork into a measuring cup and discard any chunks remaining
- Refrigerate the juice from the pork, once cooled, skim the layer of fat off the juice, and pour juice over pork
- Blend the sauce in the vitamix
- Using the paddle attachment for the stand mixer, shred the pork
- Remove bowl from stand mixer and mix in sauce, you don’t want it too dry, but it shouldn’t look like soup either
- Refrigerate meat while masa is being assembled and corn husks are soaking
- Once masa is ready, drain husks and pat dry, spread masa and begin assembling the tamales
When all was said and done, I think it took me about 12 hours of active work to complete the tamales. Considering it yielded about 3 doz. tamales, and Tommy loves them, AND they freeze, I can happily say I will make these again, but I will probably recruit friends to help next time!
- 6 lbs Pork Loin Roast
- 6 Cloves Garlic minced
- 2 T Cumin
- 1 T Salt
- ½ Onion chopped
- ½ t Chipotle Chili Powder - or more to taste
- 4 Dry Red Chilis - found in the ethnic foods isle
- 1 28 oz can Green Enchilada Sauce
- 6 Cloves Garlic
- 1 C Roasted Green Chilies
- 2 tsp Dry Oregano
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Bag Masa Flour ~5 lbs
- 2 lbs coconut oil, melted
- 8+ cups chicken stock, hot ~115°
- ¼ Cup Salt
- 1 Bag Dry Corn Husk
- Day 1:
- Put pork in large crockpot
- Sprinkle with remaining ingredients
- Cook on low for 12 hours
- Allow to cool
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a fork, shred the pork
- Combine all ingredients in a blender - I use my vitamix*
- Blend until smooth
- Simer on stove for ~10 minutes
- Mix sauce with shredded meat until well combined
- The sauce made about 6 cups, I ended up using around 5 in the meat
- Refrigerate until ready to use
- *If using a vitamix allow to run for ~6-8 minutes to "cook" the sauce
- Set the meat on the counter to warm up while making the Masa, warm meat is easier to work with
- Fill a clean sink with warm water and soak your corn husk wrappers, use a large plate to keep them submerged
- Working in batches in a large bowl or a stand mixer - combine Masa flour with oil, salt, and chicken stock until thoroughly combined
- Dough should resemble soft butter when ready, add additional chicken stock as needed to reach desired consistency
- Remove corn husks from water and stand upright to drain
- Once the Masa is ready the hard work begins
- Learning to roll tamales is the most difficult part of this recipe, you want a thin layer of Masa on each corn husk. There are specially designed masa spreaders on the market, but since I didn't have one on hand, I used a combination of a rolling pin, off-set spatula (think frosting spreader), and my hands - I highly recommend searching YouTube for a video on how to roll tamales
- Lay the corn husk on your work surface with the narrow end pointing away from you
- Starting at the bottom, spread masa ⅔ the way up the corn husk
- Depending on the size of corn husk, spoon a strip of pork up the center of the masa ~1-2 T
- Fold the left side over, the top down, then the right side over
- Lay the finished tamales on a large tray, seam side down
- When you've finished rolling the tamales, stand them up in a large steamer basket, you want them close enough that they aren't falling over, but not crowded
- Put about an inch of water in the bottom of your pot
- insert the steamer basket and steam the tamales for ~1 hour, keep an eye to be sure your pot doesn't run dry
- Allow them to cool and store in ziplock bags, refrigerated they will last a week (if they don't get eaten), Frozen they will keep indefinitely in a non-frost-free freezer
- Enjoy with your favorite salsa or hot sauce