Introduction: Tamales ~ Holiday Tradition of the Southwest!

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If you live in the Southwest, then you have probably seen at least one Holiday meal, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other day of celebration, with tamales being served.  In fact, here in the Southwest, Tamales are a tradition during the holidtaditional holiday fare. But they are not the easiest, or quickest, meal to make. So  what better time to "tackle" Tamale making than when you have plenty of family around to help in the preparations!
Get the family gathered around and make you an "assembly line" and get to work! You won't regret the outcome!

This recipe makes about 6 dozen tamales.

This will actually look like 3 instructables, but they all add up to one great TAMALE!  So let's get cooking!

STEP 1 will be making the meat - this is made ahead of time, and I like to put it in the slow cooker to cook overnight.  This way the meat is tender and shreds apart easily.

STEP 2 will be making the masa (that dough like surrounding for the meat).

STEP 3 will be assembling the tamales - the part of tamale making where it helps to have lots of helpers to roll them up

STEP 4 will be cooking the tamales, and or course enjoying your reward! 

Step 1: Gather Up the Ingredients (but Don't Be in a Rush, Patience Makes the Best Tamales)

The classic way of making tamales is to roast a pig head and scrape the meat off the skull.  Because I don't like the thought of opening my oven to see a big pig head staring back at me, I use an old recipe for carne asado (roasted meat in a chile sauce). 

You will need:

2 to 3 Tbs. lard or vegetable oil
3- to 3½-lb. boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt, cut into 3-inch chunks and trimmed
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
6 medium cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
4 dried bay leaves, toasted 
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, or mild oregano, or 1 Tbs. dried Mexican oregano
about 20 dried red chile stemmed and seeded:  guajillo, New Mexico Big Jim and
Ancho all work well
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Black peppercorns

Soak the red chiles in hot water until they are soft.  Add these to a blender and blend until smooth.  Stir in the garlic, onion, thyme, marjoram, oregano, salt and pepper. 
In a large enough bowl so the meat can be covered, add the cubed pork and smother with the chile mix so that it can marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.

After marinating for a sufficient amount of time, add the meat and the chile mixture to your slow cooker and cook on low overnight. 

Step 2: Shred the Meat....Soak the Hojas and Mix Up the Masa -you Are Getting Closer!

Allow the meat to cool enough to be handled without burning yourself.  In a large bown, shred the meat so it will not be too "chunky" to be the tamale filling.

Soak the hojas: 

You will need a bag of corn husks (found in the ethnic aisle of most supermarkets)

Don't try to seperate the corn husks, they will come apart easily after they have soaked.  Place them in your clean sink, or a large pot with lukewarm water and submerged them completely. 
While you are waiting for the hojas to soak is a good time to put mix your masa up.

You will need: 

3-1/2 cups tamale-grind masa harina
12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) lard (you could also use unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, or a combination, softened)
Kosher salt
2 to 2-1/2 cups pork cooking broth (or other broth as you like)

In another large bowl mix the lard  and salt into the masa harina until it has the consistency of cornmeal.   You can use a pastry cutter, or your hands (well washed of course),
Once you have reached this stage, slowly add the broth until the masa mix holds together when you clinch it in your hand. You do not want it so dry it falls apart, but you do not want a “wet” masa either, as that will make it difficult to cook the tamales thoroughly.

Step 3: Finally It Is Time to Roll Up Some Tamales!

The most time consuming part of tamale making is the rolling.  I have found the easiest way to get these little babies made is to set up an "assembly line". 
On a large table set out stations in a row:

The first step is to lay out a hoja flat.  If the hoja seems to small you can take two and overlap them.
The next step is to spread the masa onto the hoja, covering it up to about 1 inch on each side as in the photo.
Now you add a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture.
Roll the entire tamale over while pressing it firmly together.  Don't roll it too tight, or all your fillings will come out the ends and you will have a mess that is almost impossible to fix.
When you have rolled the tamale all the way around, fold the bottom up towards the top to seal the bottom.  If you want you can pull small strips of corn husks off and tie it around the tamale.  I have never done this, as mine have seemed to stay together fine while cooking.

While you are rolling the tamales, go ahead and put on a large tamale pot of water to boil.  If you don't have a tamale pot (and I admit I don't), you can use any large pot and a steamer basket.  I use my pasta pot since it keeps the tamales out of the water, but is large enough to cook a couple dozen tamales at one time.  You want the tamales to steam, but not to get into the water.

Step 4: Cook Up Those Tamales!

Place the tamales into the steamer basket with the open end facing out of the water.  Make sure you have room to cover the the pot so that the steam can cook the masa.  It takes about 30-45 minutes for the tamale masa to cook through. 
Check the tamales after about 30 minutes by unwrapping one so that you can poke a fork into the masa.  If it doesn't stick to the fork then the tamales are done.

Now all you have to do is reap your rewards!!! Bon Appetite!

Homemade Holidays Food Contest

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Homemade Holidays Food Contest