04 December 2007

Christmas Tamales

The time has come for the Holiday recipes. We will start with the tamales simply because if you have never had homemade, you have never eaten a tamale. When I lived in California, the ladies would sell them by the dozen to poor, abused folk who had never spent a day cooking them with friends and family.

So gather a few friends or relatives and have a party. It is really worth the effort.

Tamales sound complicated, but once you’ve been through the drill a couple of times, they are easy. When done with a crowd of family and friends, they are one of the joys of the Christmas season. The trick is to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time so that the making of the tamales is simply a matter of assembling the finished product before steaming.

You will need a steamer large enough to stand the tamales on end and cover.

5 – 6 Dozen Corn Husks
Ingredients as shown below for Masa, meat, and chile sauce filling


2 1/2 cups chicken, meat or vegetable stock
2 cups lard, butter, margarine, shortening, olive or corn oil, or any combination of these
1-2 tablespoons salt (how much depends on how salty your stock is)
5 pounds fresh unprepared masa (stone ground corn treated with lime)

Makes about 30 cups -- Enough for About 5 Dozen Tamales

If you're using butter, margarine, lard or shortening as your fat, beat the solid fats on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Alternate adding the fresh masa mixture with the warm stock, a cup or so at a time until it is all incorporated.
Continue to beat for about 5-7 minutes or until the dough is a thick paste consistency.

If you're using oil, put the fresh masa in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat for a minute or two. Slowly drizzle in oil alternating with warm stock, about a cup at a time until it is all incorporated.
Beat on high for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is a thick paste consistency.

Drop about 1/4 teaspoon masa dough into a glass of cold water. If it floats, the dough is ready. If it sinks, continue whipping the masa for another minute or two.


4 - 5 lb. boneless pork or beef roast1 large onion 6 - 8 garlic cloves
Cover the meat, onion and garlic with water in a large pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours until tender, adding more water as necessary (you can use the cooking water as stock for your masa).
Cut meat into small cubes or shred.


12 ancho (or dried poblano) Chiles4-6 dried California Chiles
3 large onions
6 cloves garlic
1 can (28 oz.) pureed tomato
4 tablespoons olive oil,
About 3 cups chicken, meat or vegetable Stock
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried coriander
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Bring about a quart of water to a boil in a medium pot. Seed and rinse the chiles, and add to the boiling water. Remove from heat and let stand for about a half hour to soften. Remove chiles from water and reserve 2 cups of the soaking liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onions until soft but not browned.
Use a food processor or blender to purée the soaked chiles, onion and garlic.
Heat remaining oil in the skillet, stir in the cumin and coriander for 30 seconds or so (do not let the spices burn or they will become bitter!).
Add the chile mixture, 2 cups reserved chile soaking liquid and enough stock to give the sauce the consistency of a thin marinara sauce.
Stir in the brown sugar and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes more.

Put It All Together

Jump to

For a tutorial with pictures on assembling, tying and steaming your tamales.
Don't be intimidated. These are wonderful and will become a family tradition.


Linda said...

My former-grandmother-in-law in California used to make these along with enchiladas and boy, were they ever good!

I left a little award for you over at my blog if you'd like to come and get it!

Travis said...

A friend of mine was telling me about their holiday family tradition of making tamales. I found it slightly amusing because I've always thought of tamales as a Spanish or Mexican traditional food, and my friend's family is neither!

I have had homemade tamales and you are correct...they are fantastic! I don't even mind the spicy so much as long as there is ice cold beer.

enigma4ever said...

oh thank you for sharing this...I never make good ones...I try and I try...but maybe this time....one more try.....