Every now and then we have a craving for Tex Mex foods and this season it was for Pork Tamales. The tamales are not difficult to make, but there are many steps and it is best to plan to make these over a two day period. Prepare the meat and chili paste on day one, and the remainder of the steps can be completed on day two. This recipe makes about 48 tamales.
Tamale Dough (Masa) Recipe
Shredded Pork Recipe
- 1 kilos (2¼ pounds) of pork, cut into large cubes. Do not discard fat.
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoons salt
- water (enough to yield enough stock for the masa, chili paste and the shredded pork)
- Cover the pork in a large stock pot with water (at least 8 cups) and add garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, salt, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and cook uncovered until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. While the pork is cooking, prepare the Chili Paste (see below).
- When the meat is tender, remove it from the pork stock and shred it with two forks, removing any pieces of fat or gristle. Reserve the pork stock for the Chili Paste and Masa (see the recipes below).
- Return the shredded pork to the empty stock pot, and stir in one cup of the Chili Paste into the shredded pork, and cook for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed and pepper to taste.
Chili Paste Recipe
- 6 Pasilla chilies, seed, stems & veins removed
- 4 Chipotle chilies, seeds, stems & veins removed
- Pot of hot water (to reconstitute chilies)
- Remove stems and seeds from chilies. With a paring knife, make a slit down the side, and open up the chilies. Remove seeds and stems. Submerge in a small pot of hot water. Cover the pot, and allow the chilies to sit for 1 hour
Prepare the Chili Paste
- Reconstituted chilies without any of the liquid
- 4 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons of ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- 1½ cups reserved pork stock
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Use a ½ cup of Chili Paste in the masa, and the remainder will be used in the shredded pork.
- 6 oz bag dried corn husks (60-70 husks needed)
- A large bucket or pot of warm water (enough to submerge husks)
- Pull husks apart. In a large pot or bucket of warm water, soak the husks, making sure that they are completely submerged. Let them soak for a couple of hours. The longer they soak, the better.
- After they have soaked, trim them down to about 4” wide. Trim 1-2" off the length of any of the extremely long husks
- About 1 hour before use, drain the water and stand husks upright in the pot or a large bowl, allowing them to drain and dry.
- 2 cups of semi-melted lard or vegetable shortening
- 5 cups pork stock, chicken stock, or vegetable broth
- 6 cups masa harina
- ½ cup of Chili Paste (see recipe above)
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Mix the baking powder and salt into a bowl with the masa harina, and set aside.
- Place the fat and Chili Paste in a mixing bowl and beat until fluffy.
- Add broth, and masa harina to the mixer, and beat until completely mixed—about 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is thick yet malleable, about the consistency of Play-Doh. It might be easier to mix by hand.
- You can test for doneness by dropping a small ball of dough into cold water. If it floats it’s ready, but if not, keep beating. Place a moist towel over the dough until ready to use. The masa may be kept in the fridge for several days.
Make Pork & Chili Paste Filling
- In a large pot, melt 1 tablespoon of lard over medium heat.
- Add the shredded pork and chili paste, and stir to incorporate ingredients.
- Add the remainder of the reserved pork stock, stir, and allow it to simmer, uncovered for 30-45 minutes.
Assemble Tamales & Steam
- Pat dry softened husks.
- When filling each husk, place the smooth side facing up from the palm of your hand.
- Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of masa with a large spatula or knife (leaving approximately 2" at the top). The masa should be evenly spread across the lower ¾ of the husk.
- Place husk horizontal on cutting board. With spoon, place approximately 1 heaping tbsp of pork filling in a line along the center of the masa. Roll the husk with meat inside and fold in the side that has no masa.
- Use thin strips of corn husk to tie the folded end to the tamale.
- After all the tamales have been rolled and stacked (do not flatten), they can be frozen for later use or cooked immediately.
- To prepare the steamer, place a large mound of aluminum foil in the center steam basket. Line the bottom of the basket loosely with a few of the husk scraps.
- To cook, stack tamales upright, side by side (with the fold at the bottom) around the foil, as if “building a teepee.” Pile some husk scraps atop the tamales to help lock in the steam and add another layer of flavoring.
- Start with 1½ cups of water to simmer in the steamer’s pot. Place the steamer basket inside, cover, and cook for 1 hour, until the masa is firm and pulls away from the husk. Check the water level and add more as needed. Do not let the tamales sit in water or they will fall apart.
Let tamales cool 15 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite sauce or salsa. Once cooled the tamales can be frozen. To reheat, place them in a steamer basket for about 10-15 minutes, or wrap them in a damp towel and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.
Yield - 48 (4 dozen) tamales.