I love tamales! Growing up in Fresno, tamales at Christmas was a favorite thing for me. I learned to cook wonderful Mexican and Italian dishes the most. My word, the spreads during the holidays, weddings and parties! It was a good thing I was stick-thin. laughing…
One holiday season during my teen years, we went to a friend’s house and his mom taught us girls to make tamales. As they were made, we talked and laughed. In our area, a lot of people added a few raisins to each tamal. At some point, her oldest son brought her a beer, then another, and another… She was getting a bit sloshed. She ran out of raisins as we were near the end of filling the corn husks. She frowned, started laughing, and then said, “what the heck!” and started putting M&M’s in the last few! I did not get one of those and have no idea how they tasted. I wish I saw the faces of those who did! laughing…
At some point during my many moves, I lost my tamales, red chile sauce and mole recipes from this dear woman. A few years ago, my daughter and I muddled through, using a few recipes from online. I forgot to add some red chile sauce to the masa and the recipes did not mention it, remind me, either. They were good, but bland.
I am sharing a video link to make the recipe and procedure easier, plus it is the woman’s recipe and should be presented by her, not me. The video link is at the end of this article.
I made tamales this Christmas. I found a few recipes that seemed close to my online and I changed a few things to while trying to remember a day 40+ years ago. The tamales came out very good. Not long after making them, I found the video from Simply Mama Cooks while looking for a mole recipe that looked like my old one. She does, I will post the link and my thoughts another time after making it. Her tamale recipe is very similar to my old one I think and I will use it from now on.
I do substitute different chiles and the amounts in the red chile sauce. My husband grew up never eating any chiles. The first time I made him chile relleños, a very mild recipe, he got sick. Poor guy. I found out if I cook and strain out the skins, he can eat the milder chiles without any distress. He can handle “medium” heat now. I cannot get guajillo chiles up here. Pasillas are a bit much for himself. I used 12 of the Ancho “California” chiles and 7 Hatch “New Mexico” chiles. I will reverse that the next time. I roasted the chiles at 375°F for 2 minutes. Once you smell the chiles, get them out of the oven or they become bitter. I roasted the vegetables at the same temp for about 30 minutes instead of the higher temps used in the video.
I used lard instead of the tallow (same brand). The tamales still came out delicious. The soft dough masa is not available in my area. In the comments area, a few “purists” got all snooty about the “authenticity” of a tamale recipe if you use masa harina. Well… sometimes you have to use what is available. It does not make them any less “real”. I found organic masa harina, too. Cool.
Simply Mama Cooks lists her recipe in the description box and takes you through the process, which is not as much work as it seems when reading a recipe. You can slow down the video if needed. Like she did, I cooked my meat in the crock pot. I made the meat and red chile sauce the day before instead of making everything in one day. I measured out the amounts of red chile sauce for the masa and put it in its own container, as I did with the beef broth for the masa. I completed and then stirred the remaining red chile sauce into the meat and put it all into the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, I started soaking the corn husks after washing them. After those soaked for an hour, I gently warmed the filling, do NOT boil!, while making the masa. I got everything together, arranged it on my table and got to “work”. My daughter called and we talked as I filled each tamal. She was there in spirit. ;D The improvised steam pot was an idea I saw in a different video, though the woman did not use the plate from the bottom of a canning pot like I did. It worked beautifully.
I have photos below of a few of the procedures. DO wear gloves while de-stemming and seeding the chiles! Look at the fingers of my gloves. I show my make-shift steaming pot, using balled-up aluminum foil to hold the steam-plate higher off the bottom of the pot. I did not use the middle funnel or bowl to lean the tamales upon, but I will do the next time.
Another photo shows the tamales ready to be steamed and one when they were done. They took 1 hour and 15 minutes. The 2″ of water was enough and I did not have to add more water to the pot while steaming. Not being a pro-foodie-type, the image of the tamales I was eating is not “pretty”. They were delicious, though not “plated” and all that fancy junk.
The leftover “sauced” meat? We divided it into 3 equal portions, put it into freezer bags, sealed and froze. I have the meat-part for chimichungas, burritos, tacos, etc., ready to use.
I hope you enjoy my musings, the photos and the recipe video below. She has many more good recipes on her channel too. Hugs!