Who can resist homemade tamales? Actually, I can. I have to know who made them and what they made them out of. Why, you ask? Well…….
My earliest memory of homemade tamales comes from my grandmother, Cruz. I faintly remember watching her make them but I definitely remember that they were delicious. When I married, I got a first-hand lesson from my mother-in-law. This was when I found out that certain people use various “cuts of beef (or pork)” when making tamales so I’m sure you can imagine my facial expression when she told me she made hers with a hog’s head. Yeah…..let me just give you a second to process that. A HOG’S HEAD Y’ALL!! Oh, and every bit of the hog’s head. Does it make you wonder what’s been in the tamales you’ve been buying? teehee. She had a large family to feed, 8 kids to be exact, so she made a ton of tamales. 6 of those 8 kids were strapping young men and they could eat! You can get a head for pretty cheap and to be quite honest, they didn’t have a lot of money. When you’ve got that big of a family, you eat what you get and are grateful for it, as we all should be anyways. While it’s perfectly normal for a lot of folks to eat that, it’s totally foreign to the rest of us. Sometimes you just have to go by the ol’ sayin’, “what you don’t know, won’t hurt ya”, when eating tamales made by someone else.
More recently, I made tamales with my mom and had a blast! I’ll admit, though, it was much more fun to eat them than make them! Even so, I took some pictures so that I could share the process with y’all. Don’t worry, these are NOT made with a beef head…..or are they?
You can use roast, pork butt, pork loin, chicken, whatever you wanna use to make tamales. For these, we used a nice pork loin. Your shucks will need to soak for at least 2 hours. This will make them soft & pliable, easy to work with. Your masa can dry fairly quick too so something my mother-in-law always did, was keep a cup of water handy and if the masa was getting harder to spread, she’d just dip her spoon in the water and it would spread the masa easier.
Now you could definitely do it “from scratch” by adding your own chili powder (handfuls to be exact) and other spices. Or, you could do it the easy way and buy the Fiesta brand Tamale Meat and Masa seasoning. I’ve had it both ways y’all and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. As an added bonus, the recipe is on the package! EASY AS TAMALE PIE!
Another idea for those of you who make a BUNCH: Everyone usually steams the tamales over the stove but my mother-in-law made so many, that she did it a different way. She used a big roasting pan. She placed a little water in the bottom, and something else to keep the tamales out of the water (foil, a wire rack, etc), then she covered the tamales with wet cloths, covered the pan, and cooked in oven. Having the wet cloths on top of the tamales is key if you’re gonna do it this way! Otherwise, I recommend just using a steam pot over the stove.
So to recap a few things:
- Get your shucks soaking in water for at least a couple of hours.
- Cook meat with seasoning and let stew for awhile. Let that meat soak in the flavor!
- They make tamale spreaders but if using a spoon like I did, keep a cup of water to help smooth the masa on the shuck easier, when needed.
- Make sure you have an extra set of hands to help ya!
Here’s the recipe according to package!
- TAMALE MASA
- 6 cups Masa flour
- 5 cups water, broth, or stock
- 1lb lard, melted
- 1 Fiesta Tamale Masa Seasoning Packet
- TAMALE MEAT
- 4 lbs ground pork (or your choice of meat)
- 1 Fiesta Tamale Meat Seasoning Packet
- Fiesta Brand Corn Shucks
- Soak your corn shucks in water for at least 2 hours.
- Brown pork, add tamale meat seasoning, and enough water to cover meat.
- Cook until very tender, at least 1 hour.
- Drain broth and let cool.
- While your meat is cooling, prepare the masa.
- In a large bowl, blend together the masa, tamale masa seasoning, and liquid. Continue mixing while adding in the melted lard.
- Spread masa on a corn shuck, just over half of the shuck. Not too thin but not too thick either.
- Place a "row" of meat down the middle and roll the tamale up, folding up the end.
- Steam your tamales for about an hour to two hours, until done. Don't overcook them.
- You'll know they're done when they don't stick to the corn shuck, but instead, pull away easily.