Friday, January 7, 2011

Pork Tamales - Easier than you think!

We just wrapped up our second Christmas celebration complete with a whole roasted pig and homemade tamales.  My husbands family celebrates Christmas on January 6 every year, it's one rich in traditions and lots of food.  I love making this holiday, but remember it being a whole lot easier a few years back.  My cousin Robbyn calls me the energizer bunny; but even the bunny runs out of juice sometimes.  I spent most of the day curled up on the couch with my dogs exhausted, but now I'm recharged and ready to share some tamales with you.  

I know what you are thinking, "Not everyone has roasted pork meat on hand", but you could easily sub out shredded chicken, cheese, or anything you have on hand.  You need a few basics down and you can let your imagination be your guide from there.

Chile Colorado
10-12 dried Pasilla chilies
10-12 dried California Chilies
2 medium onions, chopped
5-6 cloves minced garlic
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, stems removed
4-5 cups liquid from chilies

First thing you are going to want to do is give your chilies a good soaking.  I pour enough hot water over them to submerge them.  Let sit for 30-40 minutes, then pull the stems off and discard the stems.  When you do this the seeds should come out too.

In a skillet heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and add onions and garlic, cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Set aside.

Place half of the peppers, chipotles, and half the tomatoes in a blender cover with 2 cups liquid from the chilies, and process till smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds. Repeat with rest of ingredients and add to skillet.

Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes until thickened.  I like to put the sauce in a bowl and run an immersion blender in it for a few seconds.  I make my sauce the day before making the tamales.  Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Other ingredients:
1 large package dried cornhusks
5-8 pounds fresh masa harina

When I make tamales I need about 20 pounds of masa so I buy it pre-made at the Mexican grocery store. 20 lbs. isn't a typo, and yes they are all gone.  I also go through two or three packs of husks.  But a good place to start is 1 batch of sauce, 5-8 pounds of masa and one package of husks.  You can also buy masa harina flour and make it yourself.

Put the dried corn husks in a large bowl of water, place a plate on top to weight them down and let them sit for a couple of hours to soften.

Shred the pork.  You will need about 6 cups of shredded meat and 2 cups of sauce at a time.  Mix well.

Grab one husk and place a handful of masa, about the size of a large golf ball in the center. 

Spread the masa out into a rectangle and place a strip of meat down the center.  I have this pet tamale peeve, you know what I'm talking about, tamales with too much masa and not enough meat.  My preferred method is to use a larger amount of meat than masa.

Grab one side of the tamale and pull it over to the other side, tucking it to meet the other side and keep rolling till it's a cigar shape.

I always see them all cutely tied, but there really is no need.  I roll them, and fold the end over, that's it.  If you have that much free time on your hands, that makes you feel the need to tie them and make them fancy let me know, I have lots of laundry around here that needs washing.

I place them upright in a colander and lower them into a larger pot with water on the bottom and a rack to place the colander on.  Steam for 75-90 minutes.  You don't need to have the heat higher than medium.

I think if you are going to go through the trouble of making them, make a larger quantity and give some away or freeze some for later.  Don't worry I'm going to show you the pig this pork came from, I have more photos to process and then you too can be a professional pig roaster and tamale maker.




  1. Gina, these look yummy! I wish I could have some for dinner!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. I almost think I could pull that off. I have lived in AZ way too long to have not tried to make tamales. I even have some homemade red chile in the freezer. Sounds wonderful!!

  3. What a fantastic tutorial! I LOVE tamales, and have definitely always had the notion that they were too difficult or time-consuming to make. Can't wait to see the rest of this post! PS: That first photo is divine.

  4. I just wrote a lont comment and it disappeared; I am fascinated with this;I've never tasted tamales. Great instructions and picures.

  5. I love this post! I went to a tamale party during the holiday season and was shocked by how lengthy the process is (we made our own masa).

    Thanks so much for the step-by-step tutorial!

  6. You really are full of energy...I don't know how you can do it! These tamales are fantastic. You just gave me the courage to try them myself. Now I hope you can have a restful weekend, Gina.

  7. Can you believe that I never had those...I am ashamed! You did amazing job, they sound and look delicious!

  8. My house cleaner brings me her homemade green chili/pork tamales and they are so good that I have never attempted to make my own. You make it look pretty darn easy though. Love all the chilis!
    Nicely done Gina. Nice pics too!
    PS... maybe you need new batteries??? ;)

  9. Kim please let me know where they sell those! He He

  10. Fantastic photos, Gina! After our party last night I'm moving pretty slowly... Came in the office this morning for a dose of reality :-)

  11. Your tamales look great!! I have been thinking about making them lately, thanks so much for this great post, now I have something to refer to when I make them!
    Have a great weekend my friend!

  12. Look at all those chilis! These tamales look amazing! I have never made tamales - can you believe it! About time, huh?

  13. wow impressive bet they taste amazing

    happy new year


  14. I'm not sure about the pig roaster, but I sure like the idea of being a professional tamale maker! The part about doing your laundry really cracks me up, I think you'd be so much fun to have around for a good laugh...LOL. This is a wonderful tutorial you've done for us Gina, thanks so very much!

  15. Seriously, I have laundry and other crap to do too. Tamales is on my list of things to make in the next few months, so I'm thoroughly excited that you have given me a place to start. I think I'll stick with a pork shoulder though...

  16. Great tamale tutorial, Gina! I have the same pet peeve - too much masa, not enough meat :) Your photos - especially the opening one -are gorgeous!

  17. You had me at tamales! I fell head over heals for them from my first taste when I lived in the southwest. You did a beautiful job with these! And you are the energizer bunny, I swear!

  18. I want some please, Gina, purdy please? I'll give you some new batteries! :D I am probably in the small minority of Americans whose never had tamales...what better way to try them than making them myself? Will give this a go soon. Can not wait! I found a beast of a pork shoulder at the commissary- woo hoo!

  19. I love tamales and have always wanted to try making them...Love your step by step, I will have to show this to Adam and maybe we can make some together :)
    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

  20. I think I drooled a bit. These look wonderful and the sauce amazing!

  21. I embarrassingly only thought tamales were peppers until I moved to Arizona and my students explained otherwise. Now that I fully understand...yours look delicious :)

  22. Your tamales look delicious. I am assuming your husband is from Mexico? My husband is from Mexico and January 06 is a big day, well not in my house because I am a pretty bad cook, but sure he remember those days at his mom's house.Thank you foe stoping by my blog.

  23. You are making this Texas girl hungry! Tamales are big here in Austin, and I've been enjoying a wide sampling. I would love to make my own! And your chili Colorado looks so flavorful. Yum! I hope that you can continue to rejuvenate after the busy holidays. Thank you for sharing, my dear. I hope you have a good Monday. Let the week begin!

  24. How nice to find your beautiful blog (thanking Kate :)). I've been scrolling down checking out your posts and have fallen in love with Teddy! LOVE him! Looking forward to more exploring~~

  25. I know tamales are a lot of work made with a lot of love. These look awesome!!!

    I am so glad I discovered your blog. I will be visiting often.


  26. Those tamales are amazing. I never think to cook them - being in MN - they come pre-packaged but never seem to have the ingredients at hand. Although we have a huge Mexican population - so no exucses. You've given my "tamale on the brain" thoughts.

  27. What a beautiful post. Truly. These photos are frame-able. I've never made tamales, but I do love to eat them. Thanks for the inspiration.

  28. I'm so mixed up with the days with my family gone to NYC, that I'm way ahead of the days. I think I wished you a wonderful weekend...LOL...if I did, I actually meant a wonderful WEEK!
    We have such a large hispanic community here, with som many different cultures, that means that on just about every street corner we have different kind of street vendors selling their tamales from their way of making them, but your sauce is the BEST with your creation!

  29. thank you for sharing this post on make them seem so easy to put together.. you are so talented. love the step by step pictures.

  30. I've never made tamales, but I need to. I've seen so much about them and yours look delicious. Thanks for sharing the method through pictures. That helped a lot.

  31. My friend from Peru made Tamales for us and they were amazing but I have never attempted they myself. Yours look wonderful.

  32. Mmmm, tamales! Great breakdown of the steps, this makes me think I can actually attempt these and be successfuL!

  33. Those look perfect! You definitely made the wrapping look a whole lot easier. I tied the first time but it's mainly because I didn't know any better. I'll be using your method the next time!

  34. I've never mad tamales, either. Your tutorial takes the mystery out of making them. My husband made mole, so maybe we'll tackle tamales:)


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