Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to Make Tamales

You will need:
  • 7 pound pork roast with bone
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 9 cups water
  • 1/3 cup pules 1/4 cup chili powder, divided
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 package (8 oz) dried corn shucks
  • 1 package (4.4 pounds) masa harina (about 16 cups)
  • 2 pounds (4 cups) shortening or lard
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
At 8:30 p.m. bone the pork shoulder roast. Cut the pork into 3-inch pieces. Put the meat and bone 6 qt saucepan. Pour the water in. It will fill it up to the very brim. Realize that even if you didn't still have to add the garlic that you need a bigger pan. Ask your mother if she has one. She will direct you to her closet where you will need to retrieve this:
Switch the meat, bone and water to the stockpot. Then separate the heads of garlic into cloves and peel them. Put the garlic into the pot. Make sure the water covers the meat. If not, add more water. Bring the whole pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to mediium low. Cover the pot and simmer it for about 2 hours (or until meat is tender). While you're waiting, get on the computer so you'll stay awake. By the time the meat it done, it's at least 11:30 pm. You're supposed to place the meat and liquid in separate containers. So you get these out:
Then you try to strain the meat without splashing yourself with the scalding broth. It only splashes once or twice and you jump out of the way just in time. Then you "discard" the bone. You're supposed to shred the meat with either your fingers or a food processor. Then you put the shredded meat in here:
But it has never been used before, so first you wash it with hot water (no soap!) and then you dry thoroughly. Then you spray it with cooking oil. And, finally, you get to use it. So you put the shredded meat in, along with 1/3 cup chill powder, the cumin seed, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir it all up and add 3 cups of the "reserved liquid." Simmer the mixture over low heat for an hour and be sure to stir it a lot. If necessary, add more of the broth to keep the meat from sticking to the pan. Then you put the lid on the bowl of "reserved liquid" and and stick it in the refrigerator.

Transfer the flavored meat into the six quart saucepan you originally tried to use and since it doesn't have a lid, cover it with a dinner plate. Put it in the refrigerator, too. Clean the dutch oven right away. Rinse it in hot water (do NOT use soap) and dry it with a dish towel. It's still plenty seasoned, so go ahead and store it away with a dish towel folded up inside between the lid and oven as shown in the above photo so that the air can circulate. Make sure some of the towel is inside as well, to soak up any moisture, so it doesn't rust.

Then fill up the stock pot with hot water to soak until you bother cleaning it (spilling the water all over your jeans is optional). By now it's 1 am, so go to sleep since the broth and meat filling need to be left in the fridge overnight anyway.

The next day, soak the corn husks for 30 minutes to soften. Clean and separate the shucks. While that going on, mix up the dough. In a big bowl (one the size of the one shown above), combine the remaining 1/4 cup chili powder and 2 teaspoons of salt. Then get out the lard. You asked for 2 pounds, but your mother when she bought the ingredients didn't realize that and bought 4 pounds. You don't want to cut it down the middle and use half because that is inexact and you're a bit of a perfectionist. You ignore the part in the recipe where it says "4 cups" as an alternate measurement and do it the hard way. There are 139 Tablespoons in 4 lbs of lard (or so the Nutrition facts on the bucket say) and there are 16 tablespoons in a cup. So you do some math.

139 / 16 = 8.69 cups
8 x 16 = 128 tablespoons
139 - 128 = 11 tablespoons
4 lbs of lard = 8 cups +11 tablespoons
2 lbs of lard = 4 cups + 5 tablespoons +1 1/2 teaspoons

So you cut 4 cups + 5 tablespoons +1 1/2 teaspoons of lard into the masa mixture until it "resembles course corn meal." Skim the fat off of the broth (which is now jelly-like from being refrigerated). If you don't have 8 cups, then add the beef broth to make 8 cups. If you added more than nine cups of water when you were boiling the pork and then only added 3 cups of broth when you were simmering the meat in the dutch oven, you have 9 cups of broth. So be sure and measure. Add the liquid to the masa mixture and stir until you have a soft dough that will stick together.

Now it's time to assemble the tamales. Take a corn shuck and lay it out like this:
Spread about 1/4 cup of dough two-thirds of the way across the straight end and about 4 1/2 inches down, like so:
Now spread a heaping tablespoon of meat down the center of the dough:
Fold the edge closest to you over the meat, while still leaving a small bit of dough exposed:
Fold the far side all the way over until the dough edges overlap. Wrap the shuck all the way around the tamale. Fold the tail under, across the seam.
Stand the tamales in a container, or tie them shut with string. You can freeze them for later or cook them now.

To cook: Stand the tamales in a steamer basket with the open ends pointing up. Place the basket over hot water in a stockpot. Cover and steam 1-1.5 hours. Serve warm.

Supposedly it makes 5 1/2 dozen tamales, but I have yet to finish making them all. I made thirty, ate two, and still have a lot of dough and corn husks left.

Edited to Add: Don't steam the tamales. It makes them mushier and it's nasty. Cook them at a low heat for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

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