We love a good, authentic tamale. In Atlanta, this isn’t entirely easy to come by. We’ve tried them at many restaurants, and have definitely found a couple that we’d happily eat again, but it is always something we wanted to try making ourselves.
Since we aren’t traveling or eating out these days, now was the time to try. Last weekend Robert went to the Buford Highway Farmers Market (BHFM) and raided the Mexican foods aisle in preparation for our first tamale making adventure!
This is an all day project. The pork should slow cook for 4 – 5 hours to really get tender and easy to shred. The corn husks also need to soak for 2 hours. The rest comes together really easily. So, while this is time consuming, it’s not difficult. Just plan to enjoy the process.
For the Pork and Corn Husks
- 2 1/2 lb pork butt cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 cups chicken broth or stock
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Mesquite or Smoky BBQ spice rub (or any all-purpose spice mix)
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1 16 oz bag of corn husks
Pour the chicken stock into a crockpot and set to high. Stir in the garlic, onion, cumin salt and pepper.
Season the pork cubes with the mesquite or BBQ spice all over and then add to the crockpot. Top with the bay leaves and give it a quick stir to combine. Let cook for 4 – 5 hours or until the meat is tender and easily shreds with a fork.
Two hours before the meat is done, start soaking your corn husks in hot water. I suggest cleanning out your sink and using this to soak. Otherwise a large pot will do. Put a plate or heavy pot lid on top to keep the husks submerged. After two hours – remove the husks from the water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
When the pork is tender, strain it from the broth – reserve the broth in a bowl! – and then shred the meat with forks. Set aside.
For the Sauce
- 3 dried guajillo chile peppers
- 3 dried ancho chile peppers
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 serrano
- 1 large onion, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
Remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and add to a medium pot. Destem the jalapeno and serrano peppers – you can also remove the seeds and ribs if you want a more mild heat. Add to the pot. Add the onion and garlic, too, and then add just enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and let cook for 15 minutes. Then turn off heat and let cook to room temperature.
Once cool, strain and add the ingredients to your blender. Or back into the pot if you have an immersion blender (stick blender) to use. Puree until smooth. Then strain the sauce to make sure it’s not got any lumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
For the Masa
- 2 1/2 cups of lard or manteca
- 2 1/4 cups of masa mix
- Reserved meat broth from the pork (should have about 4 cups)
- The red sauce you just made
- Salt and pepper
Measure out the lard or manteca, then add to a small pot and melt over medium low heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa, salt and pepper and mix well.
At this point you are going to start adding the lard, broth and sauce to the masa mixture. You will keep adding a little at a time until the masa is combined, moist, sticks together and is easily spreadable on the corn husks.
Start by adding about 1 cup of the lard and 2 cups of the broth. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 3 – 4 tablespoons of the red sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce into the pork and mix to combine.
Now, lightly flour your hands, becasue the rest of this mixing needs to be done by hand and not with that spoon. Start working the dough, continue adding broth and lard about 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you want. You may not use all the lard.
As you fill your husks, you may have to add more broth if the mixture starts to firm up, so keep the remaining broth handy.
Put the Tamales together and prepare to steam!
You’ll need a steamer, tamale pot or similar contraption to steam the folded tamales. We used my large stock pot, put a bowl in the bottom and set my steamer basket on top. Then a coffee mug on top of that to prop the tamales against. Worked like a charm!
Take a corn husk with the smooth side up and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on the husk. Smooth out to create a thin layer of the masa on the husk. Top with 2 tablespoons of the pork down the center. Then fold the husk over to create a delicious little masa/pork envelope. Think ‘tuck and roll’. Then fold the long end of the husk underneath. Repeat.
Stack the tamales up until you’re done rolling them all and then add them to the steamer pot, standing upright if possible, folded end down. Cover the top with the remaining husks to help keep the moisture in and cover with a lid. Note: if your lid doesn’t fit (ours didn’t) cover with the remaining husks and then aluminum foil.
Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until they easily release from the husks.
For serving, I really enjoy a great verde salsa with tamales. You can definitely make your own, but there are also a lot of amazing options out there to purchase.
My current favorite is the Pure Green Chile Roast from “The Fresh Chile Co.” Their sauces and salsas are amazing!
I hope you will enjoy your next food adventure as much as we enjoyed this one!
But I always felt that I’d rather be provincial hot-tamale than soup without seasoningF. Scott Fitzgerald