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Making Fresh Masa


bimbojones
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Muchas Gracias Esperanaza, su estímulo me anima.

(Hope this makes sense, my spanish is very poor at best)

Thank you for pointing out the difference between the plural and single forms of the word; I would agree that it is important to use correct terminology.

I think I have a grasp of the degree of work involved, but for a number of reasons, this doesn't really faze me. Past large scale cooking projects have taught me to carefully assess the degree of effort required (think 8-course meals prepared in a single day, with relatively little cooking experience, how they were not more disastrous than they were, I do not know). But it is always good to be reminded, as Rancho aptly put it there is little point going to all the effort if I do not even know how to assemble the tamales correctly. What I was trying to figure out was if there was something difficult about the nixtamalization process I was missing, other than simply the scale of the project.

Now I am off to the market. (crosses his fingers that they still have corn and poblanos)

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Here's something interesting, not that I am recommending it, I came across the ad and thought "there are a lot of very clever people out there, figuring out how to do things with less effort - and in quantity.

Knowing how much work it is when my neighbors prepare a large batch of tamales (I have helped and it is very much like a production line) I showed the ad to Mr. Obregon and he is checking the web site because he thinks it would be a great Christmas gift for his wife.

I finally got around to reading the October Chile Pepper Magazine (which has some great recipes) and saw the ad for Tamale King.com The Perfect Tamale machine!

Also offering a bunch of spice mixtures.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
I am following this topic with interest.  I would love to see your photo, andiesenji.

I forgot to take a photo of the masa before I used it (for tamale pie).

However my neighbors are having a huge gathering today and made a huge batch of tamales. They did have some masa left so I "inherited" it since I have plenty of room in my fridge.

I made six flans and also baked several sheet pans full of pan dulce that Leila, one of the daughters, prepared.

The celebration is going to continue for the entire weekend.

The homemade masa - she used a yellow corn grown on their ranch in Durango. They brought back two 100 pound bags week before last. She gave me enough to fill this 2-quart container. She started out with a 5-gallon pail full.

gallery_17399_60_87711.jpg

And the flan:

gallery_17399_60_44366.jpg

gallery_17399_60_19163.jpg

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I am so stuffed full of food that I can barely move. It is a good thing we have a gate in the wall between our properties because there is no way I would have been able to walk the long way around. I went over at 12:30 and returned at 4:30. They had over 100 people there for dinner and most are still there. There are 4 motorhomes parked in my north driveway with another three outside my front wall next to the road. There are at least that many on their property and in front of their place. It's a good thing were are in a rural area, this would never work in an urban neighborhood.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I will check agian at my local tortilla factory to see if they have any masa para tamales, but I don't really want to go the pre-prepared route.

Gabriel, if your local tortilla factory does, in fact, grind their own masa, you can do what we did when I lived in Mexico. Take them your nixtamalized corn and have them grind it for you. Then remember, on your next trip to Mexico, to bring back a hand-cranked molino. I have a big old heavy one that my sister-in-law sent me which clamps to the table and works like a charm. I don't recommend using the metate - it takes just too damned much elbow grease for my taste!

My manteca is fairly good I think; I get fat from a local pig farmer who raises excellent pigs, and then render it myself at home. Is the savory lard (amber-coloured when rendered and still liquid) the most appropriate kind for tamales?

Your manteca sounds perfectly lovely. I save all my pork fat in the freezer and then render it myself as well. It's just fine.

You mention folding techniques. I recall reading that one person whips their masa in a mixer first to make it light in fluffy, and another recipe specifies kneading until a chunk of masa "floats in cold water". Would you be willing to talk a little bit more about the different techniques or perhaps provide a description of one of the most basic ones?

I learned to make tamales on my second day after arriving in Mexico, 17 years ago when I lived and studied there. The woman I lived with and several of our neighbors came over and we made a huge batch. We whipped the masa in a large earthenware cazuela using a bare right forearm and a clenched fist. It was quite a workout! We also had music playing and sang as we worked. All of the women told me that this is essential for the masa to taste right, as it "knows" when one is in good humor - shades of "Como agua para chocolate," ¿verdad? I still do it that way, and my Mexican husband (the chef) laughs at the sight of this guera loca beating the crap out of the masa in a cazuela de barro. It works, though, and he devours my tamales. Can't mess with success, right?

BTW, although I don't have the tamal-making neighbors here to share in the experience, I do often invite friends over to learn and to partake. We do a large batch, and definitely spread it over two days. On day #1 I make the masa and the various fillings. On day #2 we assemble them and steam them.

Let me share with you another trick that makes my husband cringe, but which works beautifully. After all of my tamales are cooked, I flash-freeze the extras on a sheet pan in the freezer, then throw them into a bag to store. When I need to eat one NOW (usually late at night when nothing else will do!) I wrap the still-frozen tamal in a cloth or paper towel, then put it in a shallow dish in the microwave with about a half cup of water. Cover and nuke at half power. The towel keeps the tamal from going soggy and the water keeps it moist. The result is almost-instant gratification! This technique also works well with Puerto Rican pasteles (which my husband calls tamales puertorriqueños). It's nontraditional, to be sure, but it beats waiting.

Good luck with your tamales! Reading this thread gave me ganas to go make a batch. Maybe this weekend...

¡Buen provecho!

Barb

Barb Cohan-Saavedra

Co-owner of Paloma Mexican Haute Cuisine, lawyer, jewelry designer, glass beadmaker, dessert-maker (I'm a lawyer who bakes, not a pastry chef), bookkeeper, payroll clerk and caffeine-addict

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It depends where you are from. In the north in Coahuila its pork, chicken, turkey, cheese, venison or whatever else you have.

Me dar hambre.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am serving tamalitos on Monday, but I am using fresh masa on Sunday. Which is the best scenario?

• Keep the fresh masa for a day, and assemble and steam the tamales on Monday?

• Make the tamales on Sunday, and steam them on Monday?

• Make the tamales on Sunday and steam them on Sunday, and reheat or re-steam on Monday?

Any other ideas?

¡Felices fiestas a todos!

Visit Casa Gregorio :: C A S A G R E G O R I O

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For tamales:

You want white field corn - cacahuazintle, or maiz para posole - pick it over, rinse it, and put it in a NON reactive, deep pot. Cover with 3-4" cold water and bring to a simmer. For each pound of corn, measure a rounded tablespoon of cal - calcium hydroxide, or pickling lime - into another small, non-reactive container. Add a cup or so of cold water - and keep it well away from your eyes. Stir with a non-reactive spoon until dissolved.

When the water in the corn has come to a full boil, pour the cal-water through a fine strainer into the pot. Stir thoroughly with a non-reactive spoon. The corn will turn chrome yellow. Drop the heat and heavy simmer for 15 minutes. Check t he corn kernels: you should be able to rub the holleja - or outer coat on the kernel - off between your thumb and fingers. If it does not come off easily, cook 5 minutes more. Check again. As soon as the holleja comes off easily, cut the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 1 hour or so. Pour the corn through a colander set in a deep sink. Plug the sink, fill it with cold water and wash the corn, rubbing it - refregando - between your palms. Do this washing and rinsing in at least 3-4 changes of water. When the kernels are all pure white again, and the holleja is removed, remove the colander from the sink, shake it vigorously, and dump the corn out onto sheet pans lined with towels. Let it dry until it is no longer wet.

If you have a proper corn grinder or grain mill, let the corn dry in a warm space overnight. If you do not, when the corn is barely damp, grind it in batches in a very stalwart food processor. When it is a fine, but coarse meal, dump it into a sifter or sieve, and sieve it onto a pan or large towel. Repeat until all of the corn is ground, and then re-grind the coarser pieces left in the sieve and sift again.

What you have made is harina para tamal - tamal flour - but a vast improvement on Maseca. It will make a coarser masa than Maseca para tamales, but it will be spongy. You can also mix in a portion of Maseca para Tamales with your harina. This will not be like the masa used for border tamales - it is like that used in Central Mexico. I think that you will like it.

One caveat, however: you must return the flour to a barely warm oven to dry it completely - and/or freeze it. It will mold and sour unbelievably quickly otherwise.

Regards,

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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The Christmas season in Mexico brings with it a marked tradition for sweet tamales: pineapple and raisin, pineapple and coconut, etc. Chicken in green chile sauce, pork in red chile sauce, and black bean tamales with either epazote, avocado leaves, or hoja santa.

Yum

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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I am serving tamalitos on Monday, but I am using fresh masa on Sunday. Which is the best scenario?

• Keep the fresh masa for a day, and assemble and steam the tamales on Monday?

• Make the tamales on Sunday, and steam them on Monday?

• Make the tamales on Sunday and steam them on Sunday, and reheat or re-steam on Monday?

Any other ideas?

¡Felices fiestas a todos!

Ideally, make the fillings the night before, allow to cool and blend. Make the masa the morning of, and then fill and steam. Steaming usually takes about an hour or hous and 15 minutes - depending on the size and you should allow at least 30 to 45 minutes with the heat off to let the tamales 'set' prior to serving.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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You will probably have tamales left over--para recalentar (to reheat).

On bended knee, I beg you to reheat them the way I was taught: in the husks, on a hot griddle or comal, until the husks are dark brown or nearly black.

Peel the husks off. The tamales will be slightly crisp along the edges, but still pliable, soft, and steamy. It's an unparalleled eating experience.

Re-steamed or heated in the microwave simply doesn't do it.

Wish I had one right now--or two.

Feliz Navidad, and happy eating.

Edited by esperanza (log)

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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Wow, I had been so busy for the past few weeks that I forgot about this thread completely. It is wonderful to see that more people have shared their input.

I actually did end up making tamales, but I got so busy afterwards that I neglected to write up the experience and share photos. And now I am visiting my parents over the holidays and the photos are at home! Alas, I will have to post them when I get back.

I only got around to trying tamales de puerco, which using my recipe consisted of a filling of carnitas, hominy, and a single spanish olive. I used carnitas a la Jaymes, which are unbelievably good, and maiz para posole that i simmered until soft (it was preshelled). For the masa I used maseca from the white bag, as I was unable to find any Maseca specified as being for tamales in my area. The first time I mixed the lard into the masa until it looked like coarse meal (with a touch of salt), added hot chicken stock until it pulled from the sides of the bowl, and then used it like that, after it had cooled.

The second time I followed the general directions from Abra's recipe (near bottom of the first page) but only used lard, maseca, salt, and chicken stock for my ingredients.

Both times the tamales were really good, and the salsa colorado really added something, but the masa seemed lacking. I mean it was tasty, but it just didn't have any of the magic that I imagine when I hear people talking about tamales so impassionately.

In both batches the masa seemed a littly dry. They were fairly small tamales and only seemed to take 45 minutes or so to set. The first batch I probably let steam after they were set for an extra 15-20 minutes, but the second I watched carefully and took out of the steamer as soon as it seemed they were set. My experience with a lot of similarly steamed things is that usually oversteaming is not a real risk, is this the case too with tamales?

The second batch seemed a little lighter than the first, which I attributed to the baking powder and the whipping of the lard, but the difference was not that striking. I was curious about the whipping step in Abra's recipe, as it seemed somewhat akin to creaming to me. My lard was at room temperature though, while I'm not exactly sure about the theory behind the technique, I think that it probably would have been better to have it chilled and slightly softened.

Theabroma:

Many thanks for the detailed instructions, I hope to try them out soon. I am at my parents home in Portland Oregon for a few weeks over christmas, and availability for mexican ingredients is much better here than in Montreal. One snag though is that I don't have a food processor here, would grinding the corn be feasible in a blender? If not I may be able to borrow a processor.

you should allow at least 30 to 45 minutes with the heat off to let the tamales 'set' prior to serving.

I was intrigued by this comment. Do the tamales improve after a resting period, and if so, what underlies this improvement? And how do you reheat them?

Barb:

Indeed, success is the ultimate measure. I will be sure to attempt your mixing method, music and good humor included. I wonder if you might elaborate though on how you know when the masa is ready, or what exactly the whipping is doing (just lightening the masa?)?

Esperanza:

Your method for re-heating sounds wonderful, but what if the tamales are frozen?

Now I just have to find some of the right corn and figure out what kind of tamales I'd like to make.

More info is always welcome though! I'd love to hear anyone talk about the use of spices in the masa or proportions of fat and liquid used.

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  • 6 months later...

Sorry- I'm in the process of growing organic starch corn suitable for this but it won't be ready for months.

Oddly, I just tried using the KA meat grinder and I hate to say it, but it doesn't work. It's too coarse. Maybe you could do tamales but I don't know. I put the masa through twice on the finest setting with no luck.

My next batch I used this:

779626040_caefbc338e.jpg

It worked but what a pain in the rear! It also took two passes but the masa was great.

I see why the arrival of the modern tortilleria liberated Mexican women! I have two metates coming and I'll report on that technique if you like.

I think my long term goal might be to see if I can offer an organic, or at least quality Maseca like product.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Good Eats did an episode on making masa.  Here is the link to the transcript if you are interested. Good Eats: Tort(illa) Reform

Interesting. He says to use a food processor. I'll try it tonight but I'm very doubtful. Grinding and mincing seem like different activities.

He's the one who recommends rinsing your roasted peppers under running water to clean them. The skins go down the sink, along with some precious flavor.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Hysterical. It didn't work at all. The masa stops moving and it's no where near fine enough, not even for tamales. A waste of almost 2 pounds of good nixtamizled corn. At least the chickens will enjoy it.

I think Alton Brown (and Mark Bittman and Sandra Lee) should all leave Mexican food alone. We'll do ok without them.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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One appliance that works is one of the Indian food mills, usually listed as a "mixie" or a wet/dry grinder.

This site shows the inner workings of one brand.

food grinder/mixer

There are a few brand names, Sumeet, Preethi, Premier, Santha, even Sharp now makes one that is significantly more expensive than most of the others.

here is one vendor.

and...... Bombay limited in Irving, TX

There have been a few discussions about this type of appliance. Sumeet was one of the first sold in the U.S. but imports were a problem last year and one model was recalled, but there are quite a few in use and people do like them.

This thread is about the Sumeet.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Oddly, I just tried using the KA meat grinder and I hate to say it, but it doesn't work. It's too coarse. Maybe you could do tamales but I don't know. I put the masa through twice on the finest setting with no luck.

Strike one.

Has anyone tried the KA grain mill?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 7 months later...

BUMP.

Thanks to a diligent mother-in-law, who went to Bisbee AZ, trucked dried dent corn back to Montana, and then hauled it to Nashville for a week with her daughter (and my wife), I am now in possession of 20 lbs of the stuff I need. I also have a bag of Cal (lime) ready to go. Finally, I have a food mill for the KitchenAid, which I'm assured is the best option for this process. My guide is Diana Kennedy, following the directions in The Art of Mexican Cooking, pages 7-9.

I'm about to start recruiting suckers -- I mean, collaborators -- for a major tamale-making event. Any tips for preparing the nixtamal or masa? Should I be terrified when Kennedy tosses off the suggestion that you "send [the nixtamal] to the mill to be ground," knowing that the mill is me? Any ideas on how to avoid overcooking, given that overcooked corn "will make a tacky masa"?

In short: help...?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't know enough to help, but I am happy to provide clueless encouragement! This sounds like a great project and I will be watching to see how it goes. I've been eyeing some blue corn at the international grocery - I have visions of purple pupusas...

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I am in a rush unfortunately and can't provide the link at the moment but Alton Brown also did a Good Eats episode where he made Masa from scratch. it may be worth trying to find it or google for the transcript.

I have been dying to try this myself.

Msk

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I ended up going through all the steps. I was told the KA food mill was for dry grains and wouldn't work.

The Alton Brown method is a joke. I wish he would stay away from Mexican food.

My trials are documented here, if you care.

In the end, I came to the conclusion Maseca is not the devil (but canned hominy is). The most practical thing to do is the hand grinder which is about 20 bucks and pictured in a previous post.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I was told the KA food mill was for dry grains and wouldn't work.

Did the KA people tell you this, or did someone who tried it tell you? I doubt the phone support from the KA folks would tell you to go ahead and try it, since it wasn't manufactured for that purpose, but I really don't see why it wouldn't work. Anyway, thanks for the blog on the topic, fascinating stuff. I'm not sure I'd care to buy a new appliance just to give it a try, but maybe if someday I have a really big kitchen...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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