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Making Tamales


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The sweet tamales had dark brown sugar and water instead of broth in the masa. I was going to steam them as is, but found a jar of cajeta in the back of the refrigerator and figured I'd gild the lily a bit. A good sized dollop was added to the center of each, then rolled. Definitely the sleeper hit of the evening for everyone.

1 cup lard

3 cups masa harina

2 cups water

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

If you have a good vegetarian masa, give plain cotija cheese a try as well. I actually made up more masa today so I could make up another batch. They were subtle and delicious.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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OK, question for y'all........

I know that I can freeze my tamales after they are steamed but how do they freeze uncooked? I am making a large batch today of green chili/cheese/olive and red chili pork for a party tonight

(these are steaming as we speak--I needed to get them on before I finished all the masa and filling)

but have masa and filling left. :unsure: I want to eat the non-party ones on Christmas Eve.

So, poor timing on my part but can this be salvaged since I won't be able to steam the rest tonight? :sad:

Help..........

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are some Tamales that our housekeeper Socorro (Soco) made for us and her family for Christmas:

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These are Chicken with Mole sauce... and they are VERY spicy due to a large amount of Chile de Arbol.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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My new friend at work brought me a couple of tamales made by her cousin on thursday. One beautifully flaming hot chicken filled one and a sweet one that was bright pink, I still dont know what the pink one was....

That was 2nd breakfast on thursday so I went and got some cannoli for her for lunch

must stop eating NOW

tracey

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and a sweet one that was bright pink, I still dont know what the pink one was....

tracey

Apparently red was a really big color for the Mexica, and the Maya as well. And this color preference extended to food. Often the coarse sugar topping pan de muerto for Day of the Dead is colored deep, bloody scarlt red, or a less energetic pink. It is traditional for sweet tamales to be dyed pink or red as well. I believe that cochineal was used originally to provide a shade of vermillion. Now, the exotica is gone and the tamaleras reach for the nearest bottle of food coloring.

In my traviels in Mexico, it seems typical for the tamale ladies who come out in the evening to have a couple of types of sweet ones in the botes. And two big favorites are strawberry and pineapple. Some ladies in Vallarta showed me how they did it: creamed the fat (in this case, lard - but freshly made; I now use unsalted butter for sweet ones), chunked in the coarse masa, added a bit of piloncillo or granulated sugar and a pinch of salt. Then they dumped in a bottle of either strawberry or pineapple jam, adjusted the sweetness level, plopped the flavored masa into the husks, into the bote, y ya!

You may have had a weakly flavored strawberry tamal, or you may have had just sweetened masa dyed red w/food color. The ones w/anise seed and raisins always remind me somehow as MesoAmerica's answer to Spotted Dick.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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  • 3 weeks later...
...

I'll be doing black tamales again this year, as well as at least one other type for my vegetarian, so I'm making mole this week.  It's such a huge ritual for me and I really look forward to it every year,

A group of 20 of us in the PNW were lucky enough to taste Abra's Black Tamales and Mole on Sunday.

Yum!

I am not usually so fond of tamales (as they are usually too dry), but Abra's tamales have turned me into a fan. They were so moist and flavorful, not to mention gorgeous, too. And the Mole - absolultely fantastic! Better than what I ate in Oaxaca or anywhere else.

Abra has posted her recipes for both the black tamales and mole on this thread and for anyone who is interested to make tamales and mole, I highly recommend her way!

These are 2 photos I took of them on Sunday at the party at Seawakim's ...

Abra & Shel's Mole w/ Black Tamales steaming (part 1) -

aMF5tam1.jpg

Abra & Shel's Mole w/ Black Tamales (part 2) - These tamales turned me into a tamale fan!

aMF91tam2.jpg

Thank you Abra! :wub:

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...

I'll be doing black tamales again this year, as well as at least one other type for my vegetarian, so I'm making mole this week.  It's such a huge ritual for me and I really look forward to it every year,

A group of 20 of us in the PNW were lucky enough to taste Abra's Black Tamales and Mole on Sunday.

Yum!

I am not usually so fond of tamales (as they are usually too dry), but Abra's tamales have turned me into a fan. They were so moist and flavorful, not to mention gorgeous, too. And the Mole - absolultely fantastic! Better than what I ate in Oaxaca or anywhere else.

Abra has posted her recipes for both the black tamales and mole on this thread and for anyone who is interested to make tamales and mole, I highly recommend her way!

These are 2 photos I took of them on Sunday at the party at Seawakim's ...

Abra & Shel's Mole w/ Black Tamales steaming (part 1) -

aMF5tam1.jpg

Abra & Shel's Mole w/ Black Tamales (part 2) - These tamales turned me into a tamale fan!

aMF91tam2.jpg

Thank you Abra! :wub:

Is it possible to see a picture of the tamales out of the husk? They sound fascinating!

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  • 11 months later...

Just had to bring this one back up .....Livin in Phoenix it isnt christmas without tamalies and the actual underground , blackmarket ways you have to get homeaid tamalies . I ve spent whole days on the search for the old lady I call ......" The tamalie dealer " shes very unsuspecting but she can slang with the best of them . Ive been going to her now for over ten years , I get the friend price now of 50c a piece . but i still act like there 1.00$ and she always thinks theres a communication gap . But she must be takin care of . Im not buying a tamalie im renting passion and love for a few days while I eat tamalies with every meal ...sometimes just the tamalies . the whole day . Her green corn , chicken plablano , pork jalepeno , pork/beef with green olives , red chilie with beef . Her cheese and habenero .Green chili with langua. Oh dear sweet Jesus . I not only love tamalies , im in love with them . Its a healthy relationship until I realize that there little packets of lard as I reach for another and hope the heart attack is quick :smile::biggrin: Happy tamalidays egulleters .Eat drink and dont drive .

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Here in Trinidad we call them pastelles, usually made with cornmeal/masa

and filled with a ground beef/pork mix with raisins, capers, olives and lots of thyme, parsley, garlic etc wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

My Mom incidentally made her Xmas batch today:

Rolled into balls beforehand

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Into the press

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Pressed

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Filling

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Steamer

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Finished

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Edited by lennyk (log)
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Tamales 2007

I am just plain tired of wimpy tamales. The last tamales I bought were so bland. What ever happened to HOT tamales? (Actually, I know the answer to that, but, that's another show as Alton Brown would say)

Well, I was picking up some sugar at one of the only places open on Christmas day and since this is where I buy my fresh lard, I bought 1 lb of lard from them. I brought it home, heated it and strained it.

I had the pleasure of doing some recipe testing when Robb Walsh was writing his spectacular history of Mexican food in Texas. I followed the recipe that Robb and I had developed for The Tex-Mex Cookbook, a recipe that I am very proud of because it allows one to use Maseca and also to only make a batch of 2 dozen tamales. Thus, one may make tamales more often.

So, the recipe calls for 1 ½ tsp of salt, 4 cups Maseca, 1 tsp of baking powder, 3 ½ cups of warm broth and 1 cup of lard.

Then, I began to deviate. I eliminated the salt but you’ll see how the salt comes into the picture via a very non-traditional way.

I decided, well this was spur of the moment after all and I was experimenting, not to put a meat filling in the tamales, but just to see how far I could go with a steamed masa. This is actually not as inauthentic as it sounds. In Oaxaca, “rajas” tamales are basically masa with some strips of Poblano chiles.

Because I had not simmered pork in my crock pot for a broth and because I wanted to up the heat index on these, I put about 6 cups of water in a pot, de-stemmed and seeded three really good red anchos, added Tony Chachere Cajun seasoning to taste (in order to get the salt component in to the broth) to taste, with a commitment to make the broth saltier than seemed right, knowing that the masa would need to absorb this salt.

I knew that, if you are making a chile puree with anchos and you increase the amount of water a tad more, when you process them in the blender with the liquid, you will have to do less straining ( you want to get rid of the gritty skin), though you will have to cook the sauce longer to evaporate more water ( chile purees are a two step process where the chiles are reconsituted with water and pureed and strained, then returned to a pot to simmer in oil (this takes out the raw taste of the chiles).

While I was simmering the anchos, I pureed 6 chipotles in adobo from a can I had in the fridge. Yes, just happened to have them lying around. Why not?

In my Kitchen Aid mixer (the new heavy duty one....I had actually burned up my old one last year making masa), I put the 4 cups of Maseca, turned the machine on to blend and dumped in the ancho puree. Note on the Kitchen-Aid, don't go above mid point: 4 or 5 in your mixer speed. Actually, I think Kitchen-Aid says not to go above 3 on a warning label they attach to each new machine.

I had some left over kernel corn from a party, so I dropped a cup of corn into the Maseca.

Then I turned off the mixer to just blend the corn and chipotle. Just for a little bit.

I put the anchos with water to cover in my blender and carefully, using the pulse function began to puree the anchos in the broth. I tasted and adjusted the seasoning with more Tony Chachere. Note: No onions and no garlic in this recipe.

Then, with the Kitchen Aid going, I added 3 ½ cups of the ancho broth to the Maseca.

The consistency I was looking for was of a wet and thick batter. If you have ever seen the consistency of hummus, well, that is what I was going for. Additionally, I knew that even though the recipe calls for 1 cup of lard and that works well, that I was going to keep adding lard incrementally until I could get a ball of masa to float in water. The lard would add a flavor component to the tamales and a clogging effect to my arteries. Oh well, starting tomorrow I am back on The Fat Smash Diet by Dr. Ian Smith.

Well, because of the moisture from the corn kernels, I realized I needed to add more Maseca. At the same time, I was adding the lard, beginning with the 1 cup measure. This was the tricky part. With my experience, I knew the consistency I was looking for and was adjusting the extra dry masa and the lard by intuition. I am kicking myself for not having thought of taking photographs. Darn!

I ended up using about 12 ounces of the 1 lb of lard I bought, to get the masa to float. I then sprinkled 1 tsp of baking powder and continued beating air into the masa.

By this time it was a light red color. I tasted it, and was surprised that even with the anchos, that were a little hotter than usual, and the chipotles, the masa still wasn’t hot hot hot. Tasty, though. So, I added a ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

Growing up in Houston, I remember that the tamales of my youth had a black pepper component for their heat.

At this point I had this terrific, light and fluffy, masa, red in color, embedded with corn.

I had been soaking my corn husks in warm water.

Because I am a fan of the tamales you find in Mexico, D.F. and further south, big ones, where one is a meal and where they are typically sold for breakfast with hot atole, I made big tamales. About 1 ½ inch diameter. I got 19 out of the batch.

My steamer these days (over the years I have used couscousiers, tamaleras from Mexico) is my standard stock pot with a cloth at the bottom, water, and one of the larger size vegetable steamers that Williams Sonoma sells.

I brought my water to a boil, reduced the heat to low medium, just enough so that the steam would continue and set the timer for an hour of steaming.

My first taste impressions:

The flavor of the anchos and chipotles comes through as a deliciously raw earthy taste. The corn kernels, well I think I would leave these out. The dough would definitely work for a meat filling (preferably pork). The baking powder helped make the end product light and fluffy. These are tamales that should be served same day, as they will harden up more. My holy grail is/are some tamales I had in the Querretaro market, that were like eating cake. Unbelievable and I hope someday to find that vendor and compensate him in order to learn his secrets (my suspicions are: the type of corn, the grind, and the amount of lard). I was very pleased with the outcome, although the level of heat was not painful to me but might be to others. If and when I do these again, the chipotles will be left out. When anchos, one is never certain. Sometimes they are hot and sometimes not. Additionally, when you buy them, sometimes they are black sometimes red. Red is my preference. The brand that Fiesta markets is Lupita’s Brand Dried Ancho Chile ( email: fecha@pdq.com). They are a local company and their bagged chiles are always soft and clean. Additionally, the tamales were greasier than I would normally like them to be (that was a lot of lard that I used).

Corn husks: just be sure that you don’t scrimp here. Buy the more expensive ones that have been cleaned of the corn threads.

Happy Cooking.

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Just FYI, according to Grandma Hernandez, it's not the amount of lard that you put in that makes the ball float, but the amount of time you process it. We usually have it going in the Kitchen Aid for at least 45 minutes, sometimes more. We only add about a cup of melted lard to about 3 pounds of masa. We use fresh masa from the local tortillaria (?) so probably don't need as much as with dried masa. Since we usually make 25 dozen or so at a time that 45 minutes seems to take a long, long time!

OMG! Totally agree about the corn husks. I got the cheap ones ONCE and never again. The girlfriend that was in charge of corn husks was ready to kill me by the time she got through.

You are making me really hungry for some tamales!

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We spent Saturday at a friend's for their annual holiday tamalada. We poured some drinks, set up the assembly line, and got down to business. Even the kids enjoyed making tamales.

We made four kinds of tamales, three savory, one sweet. The three savory fillings included a spicy chicken mole, an pork adobo with peas, and my favorite: jack cheese and jalapeno and carrot escabeche. The sweet tamales were pineapple and raisin.

All in all, we must have made 80-100 tamales. After what seemed like two hours of steaming, we gorged on tamales served with homemade roasted chile salsa and ice cold Bohemia.

Delicioso!

PS: Our host bought red masa preparada down in Watsonville. However, we spent about an hour or so working the masa by hand and incorporating some olive oil into the mix. The masa in the tamales was light and fluffy, except for a few that got a little too wet in the bottom of the steamer.

Sitting on the fence between gourmet and gourmand, I am probably leaning to the right...

Lyle P.

Redwood City, CA

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Just FYI,  according to Grandma Hernandez, it's not the amount of lard that you put in that makes the ball float, but the amount of time you process it.  We usually have it going in the Kitchen Aid for at least 45 minutes, sometimes more.  We only add about a cup of melted lard to about 3 pounds of masa.  We use fresh masa from the local tortillaria (?) so probably don't need as much as with dried masa.  Since we usually make 25 dozen or so at a time that 45 minutes seems to take a long, long time!

OMG!  Totally agree about the corn husks.  I got the cheap ones ONCE and never again.  The girlfriend that was in charge of corn husks was ready to kill me by the time she got through.

You are making me really hungry for some tamales!

So enjoyable to read your comments. What fun tamales making is.

The first time, and we're going back to the 70's, that I made tamales without a clue, I just used liquid and masa, no fat component. They were hard solid chunks!

Beating air into the mix sure helps. Still, I think there is a critical point of fat introduction to assure the float-a-bility of the masa, though.

I was in Toluca a few years back, actually Metepec, and on a little street corner, I gues the Metepecans take their tamales seriously, they actually had a tamal shop, with all the provisions and these gorgeous stainless steel mixing machines. They had the husks, the fresh nixtamal masa, lard. You would order your preferred ratio, they'd drop everything into the big blender and out would come this perfect masa for tamales!

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Having just returned from Michoacan I want to share recipe for a regional specialty--Corundas Michoacanas. These are unfilled tamales that can be sublime when prepared by a woman cooking for her extended family. Or they can be merely adequate when prepared in a restaurant kitchen. I think the difference is the amount of time spent beating the mixture and the quality of the masa and chicken broth. Those of you with access to fresh masa are lucky.

The recipe I have serves 20 to 30 people (60 pieces), so you may want to scale it back a bit.

3 kilos of fresh masa (not Maseca)

2 cups of strong chicken or pork broth

1 kilo of lard

salt to taste

30 fresh corn leaves (not dried husks--the leaves from the corn stalk)

Tear the central rib out of the corn leaves to make 60 long strips.

Beat the masa with the chicken broth for at least 20 minutes. Whip the lard until it's spongy and mix into the masa. Beat until a little bit of masa floats in a cup of water. Add salt to taste.

Put a couple of spoonfuls of masa on the thick end of the half leaf (the part closest to the stalk) and roll up into a 3-dimensional triangle (ha--just try it) and put them into a steamer. Use a piece of the central rib to poke the last bit of leaf into the bundle so it won't unwrap. Steam for at least an hour, until you can easily remove the leaves (or until they are "bien suave," nice and soft).

These were served without sauce with bowls of delicious soup (pork chunks, lots of vegetables like carrots and squash, and lots of not-overly- spicy dried chiles. I think I ate 5 or 6 myself and could have eaten more if I hadn't already been full of pork carnitas. The soup was cooked over a wood fire in the back yard and I think the corundas were done on the stove.

By the way, this was prepared in an open-air kitchen with a dirt floor by a sturdy Mexican woman with adult children who didn't have a mixer. I can't imagine beating this by hand, but apparently she did it. They all had a good laugh at my attempt to roll up the corundas, but I didn't take it personally--after all, they all had to learn how to do it too and just had a lot more practice.

Now I have to wait until the corn comes up next summer. Dang. I wonder how these would be wrapped in plain ol' corn husks, which are easier to come by in the winter.

N.

By the way, I can recommend Michoacan as a very nice part of Mexico that hasn't really been discovered yet. Morelia, the state capitol, is a beautiful colonial city. We are planning to go back in a few months and spend more time there. Maybe I'll learn how to roll up corundas.

Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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To Nancy - I love Michoacan. I like corundas and uchepos too. If you're in Patzcuaro try the corunda vendors in front of the Basilica. They're wonderful, the corundas that is. Large, the size of your fist and perfectly triangular in shape; stuffed with doble crema and rajas (chile strips) and served with a spicy chile peron salsa. Many of the vendors also serve atole in assorted flavors. A corunda and a mug of atole makes a fine, if not hearty, breakfast.

I have beaten masa preparada and lard together by hand........literally. Roll up your sleeves and get ready for a great upper body work out. :raz: Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase "playing with your food". But you do develop a pretty good feel for what the finished masa should feel like when it's done. Never underestimate some of the tiny little Mexican women, they're way stronger than you'd ever imagine.........in more ways than one.

To Jay - I enjoyed reading about your experiment. Having made tamales in various sizes, shapes and colors, with various fillings and with various wrappers I definitely appreciated your effort :biggrin: I like the dried corn husks that have a "belly button" at the bottom where the stem was attached. The bottom of the husk kind of "cups" at the bottom and sometimes you can see an outline where the stem used to be attached making it look like a belly button, hence the name. These are big, easy to fill, easy to fold, fairly pliable and make a nice looking tamle. I haven't seen them in my neck of the woods (San Diego, CA) but you might better luck finding them in TX.

When you're done messing around with making tamales hot, try making chocolate tamales. Really good.

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  • 13 years later...

I love tamales...but I've never tried to make them, nor will I. Do you?

 

But I get some great ones at a place a few minutes away, called Factory Tamal.

 

Look at all the work involved in making them. And he also makes the mole!

 

 

  • Like 1

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I've made them once or twice but we have cart tamale vendors that ring a bell and shout out  as they go through a neighborhood that are excellent. Not where I live now but I have had the pleasure.  There are some guys that sell from the back of their truck if you know their schedule.  I got my Masa por Tamales from one of the Diana's. Huge product turnover.  I did pork with red chile sauce. Really good but from what Mexicans tell me it is better done in groups with lots of convivial chatter .like dumpling making.   I like the ones in banana leaves better than corn husk as they perfume the masa. those are tied with string to hold it together.That is more common in Southern Mexico with more tropical weather. 

 

image.jpeg.5680e0cb70a990f59d932402fc041dd5.jpeg

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I used to make them with some frequency.    Sometimes I'd buy the masa ready to use from La Palma market o 24th St., and sometimes making from harina.  Fillings = "tablecloth stainer" or green chili and Oaxacan cheese.  Important to access husks that are moderately fresh, i.e., not sitting in the store for a year.    Otherwise, pretty straightforward.   Both folded or tied eds.   No pics on this computer; maybe when I get home...

eGullet member #80.

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I was actually debating making them this weekend since I'll have some extra time off work but I'm not sure it's going to be cool enough that I want a big steam pot going. I finally, after years of admittedly not-so-diligent trying, found a couple good online sources for Mexican ingredients within Canada and went a bit overboard stocking up. So now I have a list of things I want to make and everything I need to make it all which only lead to the problem of deciding on the order I want to do it all in. :D

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Tamales in the south are a little bit different.

I recall seeing a Food Network show where they spoke with a southern US restaurant owner who made tamales. One big difference is that they wrapped the tamales in coffee filters instead of husks for steaming. 

I am a huge fan of tamales but would rather buy them than make them. :)

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4 minutes ago, Toliver said:

Tamales in the south are a little bit different.

I recall seeing a Food Network show where they spoke with a southern US restaurant owner who made tamales. One big difference is that they wrapped the tamales in coffee filters instead of husks for steaming. 

I am a huge fan of tamales but would rather buy them than make them. :)

Or you can use aluminum foil.   But IMHO corn husks add a degree of flavor.   Maybe not.   Maybe they just make the kitchen smell good.

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eGullet member #80.

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