Picture Heavy Warning: Many pics … everywhere! I proof read this post as carefully as possible, but, if something is confusing, please ask for clarification.
The finished tamales with various sauces (from left to right): Strained pork braising liquid, salsa (Hot Old El Paso cause I didn’t have the energy to make any from scratch) and a mole made with 2 parts pork braising liquid and 1 part Dona Maria mole sauce. They were all good.
Tamale with mole sauce
Inside the pork with mole
Now that you’ve got your pulled pork filling ready, it’s time to make the masa, assemble your tamales, steam them and then, FINALLY, it’s time to EAT.
Assembling the steamer basket:
Steamer inserts from left to right: steamer stand, collapsible steamer and cake cooling rack
Stacked steamer set up
Steamer Assembly in Stockpot
By the way, I let my steamer run dry because it vented steam like mad and I didn’t realize that most of the water had evaporated so quickly, though I suspected something had happened from the burned smell. Scrubbing the black crust of burnt corn when I was done was NOT fun. :( It’s hard to believe that 12 cups boiled away in about 90 minutes but it happened.
For the 2nd batch of tamales, I added at least 4 cups of boiling water every 15 minutes.
Another way to make sure that your steaming pot DOESN’T run dry is to put a couple of pennies in the bottom of the pot full of water. As long as the water is boiling, the pennies will jump around and make a noise. When the noise slows down or STOPS, you’ve run dry.
There are lots of videos about how to assemble the tamales so I’m not going to post any pictures, even though I have a TON. Instead, these are my finished tamales.
Steamed tamale still in the corn husk
Peeling open the corn husk – the not pretty side of the tamale
Pretty side of the tamale ready for saucing
Masa – makes 20-24 tamales
24-28 dried corn husks
4 cups masa harina for tamales (Maseca brand is good)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup lard
3 1/2 – 4 cups water or stock (chicken or pork), warm
Rehydrating the corn husks
Bring a pot of water, large enough to hold the husks, to the boil. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner, gently submerge the husks, and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. As with pasta, it will take a little while for the husks to become pliable enough to be fully submerged. When ready to fill the husks, drain off some of the hot water and replace it with enough cold water to be able to handle the husks.
NOTE: You can take some of the smaller (narrower) corn husk and tear them into 1/8″ strips for tying or overlap two husks if you run short at the end. For the giant husks, tear off an inch on the side and use that for the ties. Always soak more husks than you need.
Preparing the masa
Whisk together the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Whip the lard in a kitchen stand blender with the paddle for at least 5 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible into the lard.
Gradually add the masa mixture to the lard, a cup at a time, until it has all been mixed into the lard.
With the mixer turned on, gradually add 3 cups of the warm stock to the masa in the bowl. Then add, more stock, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is about the texture of soft cookie dough. Let the dough stand at room temperature (covered with a damp cloth) for 5-10 minutes so that the masa absorbs the liquid evenly.
Assembling the tamale
To wrap the tamales, place 1 soaked corn husk (drain off the excess water or blot a little off if you wish), with the narrow end pointed towards you and the smoother cup shaped side up, on the working surface in front of you. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the masa and place it down on the husk in about the middle. With your fingers, pat down the masa mixture into a roughly 3×3″ circle (with the lower edge about 1″ from the pointed end of the husk). It should be about 1/4″ thick and as even as you can get it.
Place about a tablespoon of the filling in a strip in the center third of the masa circle. Leave about an inch or less of the masa at the bottom edge (closest to you) free of filling.
Use the husk to enclose the filling. Start by folding up the bottom edge of masa opening up the husk again so that you can see your masa/filling before you fold the next edge. Repeat with the right edge and finally the left edge. Check to make sure that your filling is well covered by the masa and an even log about 1″ inch wide and 3″ long results.
Refold, starting at the bottom, then the right edge and rolling over the left edge to form a snug but not tight bundle.
Tie with a strip of torn corn husk just above the top of the filling.
Repeat until you’ve used up all your masa dough. If you run out of filling, make ’empty’ tamales. They taste just as good with some sauce on top.
Steaming the tamales
Once you’ve wrapped all the tamales, prepare a deep pot with a steamer insert by filling the pot with water until the waterline is just below the level of the steamer insert. Place the tamales in the steamer vertically, with the tied end facing up.
Wet a kitchen towel, and cover the pot with the towel before covering it with the lid. This prevents condensation from forming on the lid, which will drip down and make your tamales watery if you chose NOT to tie them up. Make sure to fold the bits of towel hanging out of the pot up over the lid so they do not catch on fire.
Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat so you can barely see a steady stream of steam escaping. Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (I let mine go the full 2 hrs though it would have been fine 15 minutes earlier.) Make sure you check the steamer periodically to make sure you don’t run out of water.
For a sauce, either use the strained braising liquid from the pork filling, a mole sauce (home made or purchased) or a salsa (home made or purchased).
The tamales will keep for about 1 week in the fridge, or for a few months in the freezer. You can re-steam or heat them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel to warm them up.
In conclusion, I want to say that making these tamales was worth the time and effort it took. They’re actually better than ones I’ve ordered in a REAL Mexican restaurant, where they were under-seasoned and less than generous with the filling. These tamales were great without any sauce at all.
For the next batch, I’ll probably try a chicken chile verde filling. I learned a lot and, after eating 3 tamales, I still have 22 left so it’s a good ‘make ahead and freeze for later’ recipe. I also had enough pork filling for about 5 generously filled pulled pork buns. And you can even make vegetarian tamales with baked squash and cheese, if that’s your preference.
Now, I just need someone to come over and do my dishes cause I’m BUSHED and full. :)