Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Homemade Pork Tamales


You will need the following equipment before getting started: Large stock pot, steamer basket, cutting board, blender or food processor, plastic ziplock bags or plastic wrap for rolling tamales out, measuring cup, spatula, rolling pin.


3 TBS ground Cumin to the meat
1 TBS Paprika
3 TBS Garlic Powder (not salt)
1 TBS Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
1 TBS Ground Black Pepper
3 TBS Chili Powder
1-2 TSP Cumin seeds to the dough


Large 8-9 lb pork roast (can be shoulder, butt, doesn't matter)
Chicken bouillon cubes or chicken stock need a minimum of 2 cups stock - it depends on how much masa you want to work with I usually start with 2-3 cups of masa - some recipes recommend you use 1/2 bag of masa. My recipe will be based on smaller version which yields 2 dozen tamales.
Corn Oil
Bag of Corn Husks for tamale making


Day 1

The first step is to cook and prepare the meat. This will take one whole day to do, the meat needs to cook for a long period of time so that it is tender, and then you need to shred it either with a fork, or use a blender or food processor. There are various methods of cooking the meat below it is a matter of preference. I usually roast mine in the oven and it comes out nice and tender.

Stove-Top Method

Place your roast in a large stockpot with 2 Tablespoons of oil. Cook the meat for about 6 minutes on each side. Then slowly add enough water to cover the roast. You can start it at a high temperature, but turn the heat down to med-low or med. and let it simmer for several hours at least 2-3 hours. When the meat is done, do not discard the broth. Save about 2-3 cups of broth for the masa dough. Just pour the broth into a pitcher or large measuring cup or container and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to make your tamales. Also it is not necessary to season your meat until after it cooks, the only seasoning I would suggest is salt and pepper.

Roasting in the Oven

The roast needs to cook for at least 2 –3 hours. I take a large pan that is about 2 inches deep and line it with foil. Preheat your oven to 350. Cook your roast at this temperature for at least 1 hour. Turn the meat over after 1 hour. You can cover the roast with foil once the outside has turned a nice brown so that it doesn't turn out too dry and overcooked. Also, you may prefer to cook the roast at a lower temperature like 325. It will take longer to cook, but it will be very tender. You will have to experiment with this, as most ovens vary. I usually start cooking mine at 350, if it looks like it is cooking too fast, I turn the temperature down to 325, cause the longer it cooks the more tender it is.

Preparing the Meat

Once the Meat is cooked, it needs to be shredded. I prefer to use my blender. This is a matter of preference. You can use a fork, blender, or a food processor. If using the blender, you may add a little stock as you blend. I blend a little at a time and place it in a bowl. Don’t try to blend the whole roast, just small amounts at a time. It takes awhile, but the result is worth it. After the meat is shredded to your liking, add the seasoning and blend well, and then you need to refrigerate it until the following day. The reason for this is the process of making the masa, spreading it on the cornhusks, and cooking the tamales, will take awhile to do. It is better to do each in steps.

After the meat is shredded, you need to season it Tex-mex style. I listed the seasons at the top of this recipe. I recently made this and found that it wasn't clear on how much seasonings to add. Especially if you don't want to cook a large roast like 8-9 lbs. Most people like to cook a large roast so they can make large amounts of tamales, I find that I like to make 2 dozen at a time and end up freezing my meat for next time. If you buy a 4 lb pork shoulder roast for instance and roast it in the oven season it with Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. You serve it as a roast. If there are left overs, you can make tamales from that meat. That is what I did recently. Say you have 2 lbs of meat left. You lightly season your meat with cumin, additional cayenne, more garlic powder, chili powder (The measurements at the top are only for 8-9 lb piece of meat like port butt or pork shoulder. You also need to make sure the meat stays moist. Add small amounts (by the tablespoon) of cooking oil or olive oil. I myself use Smart Balance - it tastes delicious and is a blend of canola, olive, and soy. You can also add small amounts of broth. Beef broth or pork stock if you saved the stock. It doesn't matter. I did not have any pork stock, so I used beef broth and it tasted great. Chicken broth works great, too. Don't let your meat dry out. Also, if you like it spicy, add a chopped jalapeno pepper. I have done this, too. But consider your family's taste too. It doesn't take too much pepper before it is too spicy. Try adding 1 first. For seasoning your meat, go easy, taste it as you go along. You are going to need more chili powder, followed by cumin, garlic powder, and touch of cayenne.


Day 2

Soak the Cornhusks

The first thing you need to do is soak the cornhusks in warm water while you prepare the tamales. I use my stock pot and place enough warm water in there to cover the husks, then I find they stay covered better when I place my steamer basket over them and place something heavy in the steamer basket like 2 large cups. They will tend to float to the top if you don’t hold them down with something. I turn the stove on low heat. I also flip them over to insure that they all get soaked about every 30 minutes or so. As I make the tamales, I get a few husks out and let the others keep soaking, so they don’t dry out. That is how I do it. You will find a method that works for you.

Prepare the Masa dough

I use 2 –3 cups of masa, this will yield 2 dozen tamales. Place masa in a large bowl. I season this with 1 Tbsp. Kosher salt. 2 Tsp garlic powder, and 1 Tsp paprika. 1-2 Tsp. of cumin seeds. Add 2 cups of broth to this. (If you discarded the broth from the pork, I just use chicken broth that I make with chicken bouillon cubes; instructions are on the jar) Broth should be room temperature. I then add ½ cup of corn oil to the masa dough. You need to work this all in with your hands. Now just add water till the consistency is moist, but not too moist. Should be something like peanut butter. You don’t want it too dry either, some of the worst tasting tamales are those that are too dry.

Making the Tamales

Now that you have your masa dough. I like to prepare mine on a large plastic cutting board. Keep paper towels close by, the area will tend to get wet and you need to dry it as you go, or the tamales will not come out right. I take a few cornhusks and place them on a plate – shake out the water in the sink. Some people like to make 5 tamales at a time, I prefer to make 1 at a time.
I like to work on a gallon size ziplock bag – I take 2 bags and cut off the plastic zipper. I tried using saran wrap, but it is too thin to work with, and I’ve also tried using wax paper without success. I like the thickness of using the ziplock bags. I use one bag for the top and one bag to lay the tamale on top of while I roll it out. So lay the husk on top of one of the plastic bags, using a spatula, place a scoop of masa dough on the tamale. Holding the husk in front of you, the narrow end on your right, work the lower left corner of the husk. Leave 1 inch of the top husk bare and about 1/3 of the right side bare or empty. I like to spread my dough as thin as I can. I place the

other ziplock bag over the area that needs to be flattened out, and then I use my rolling pin to roll it the desired thickness. I try to get mine as thin as possible, they make better tamales. The first batch I made, they were too thick. You will have to experiment with this. Unfortunately you will not know until you have completely prepared and cooked a batch of tamales. Try to make them paper-thin. You won’t be sorry. Then take a spoon and place 1 Tbs. or so of meat and using a fork spread it down the tamale. Now, roll the tamale up, and fold the narrow side down. Place the tamale aside, you may want to use a cookie sheet or large dish to place them in until you are ready to steam them. Keep preparing the tamales until you run out of husks, dough, or you just don’t want to make any more. You can refrigerate the dough and meat and even the husks until you want to make more. I just place my husks in a ziplock before refrigerating them or you can let them dry out again and store them in the bag you purchased them in. I also freeze my meat; I just make sure that I put the date on the bag, so I can use the oldest up first. You may want to make 1 small batch a dozen or so just to get the method down that works for you. When I made my third batch, I felt everything was going smoothly and I had made a large batch, then as I was cooking them, I remembered that I forgot to add my cooking oil to the dough. I knew they would not cook properly, and I was right. Some people use lard, but you can make tasty tamales with corn oil. Just don’t forget to put it in the dough or they will not cook right. That was a bitter lesson for me! I won’t forget that again. I had to throw them away. I usually freeze them and let my dog have them as treats – he loves them. My first batch was too spicy; so those made great frozen dog treats. You just microwave them for 2 minutes or so before you give them to your dog, but allow them to cool off first.

Cooking the Tamales

The tamales need to be steamed in water that does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. I suggest you experiment with a measuring cup now, and see how much water you can add to the stockpot without covering the bottom of the steamer basket. That is how much water you need to add, and as the water evaporates, this is very important – do not let it run out of water. I check mine every 20-30 minutes and have never run out of water. Place a damp kitchen towel on top under your lid and at first cook at a high temperature, when it starts to steam, drop the temperature down to simmer. I cook mine on Med-Low. It takes 2-1/2 hours to cook at this temperature. Everyone’s will vary. So you need to pay attention, document, and remember what the cooking time is. You also need to check a tamale towards the end, to check for doneness. If the masa is sticking, that is a sign that they are not ready. Also, don’t forget to re-dampen your towel, just make sure you wring it out good before placing it under the lid. I usually do this every time I check the water level. So every 20-30 minutes.

I will try to post other tamales recipes I have tried. I love the pork, but I have also made delicious chicken tamales that have poblano peppers and tomatillos in them. My husband said they were the best tamales he has ever tasted. The only real difference between that recipe and the pork is you do not use cumin powder, I used cumin seeds as the chicken cooks.


Barefoot Nana said...

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Rachel said...

Although making tamales is very time consuming , this recipe makes it all worth it.