Saturday, December 6, 2008


After having the opportunity to make tamales with H's grandma for years, and getting a special lesson from her a couple winters ago, we attempted to do it without her this year. Since our lesson, Grandma had to move to an assisted living facility, and is no longer in Tamale Making shape. I am very grateful I was able to learn from her before now! Well, we learned most of it from her. She left some things out (on purpose or on accident, I'm not quite sure), but we were able to fill in with information from other relatives where some of the mistakes were made, and maybe adding a couple of our own twists on the family recipe.

The chiles come dried from New Mexico, and need to be seeded and re hydrated. We use both hot and mild chiles and end up mixing the chile sauces together after it is made.

Here they are boiling on the stove to rehydrate.

After they are re hydrated, they need to be ground up and and put through a sieve to remove any leftover seeds and skin, giving us a smooth chile sauce.

Next, we slow cooked pork, beef and chicken with garlic and oregano. Grandma always mixed beef and pork together, which we will do as well, and then make a separate batch of chicken.

You know it's ready when you can barely get it out of the pot in one piece.

Once the meat is cooked slowly, it gets mixed into the sauce and everything gets seasoned. At this point, the Hojas need to be cleaned and soaked so they will be ready.

The last step before assembly is the masa - fresh unprepared tortilla masa is the best. We drove all the way to Santa Ana to get the good stuff! That gets mixed with broth, manteca, and crisco until it reaches the right consistency, and then gets properly seasoned to taste. While a truly good tamale does not have a ton of masa in it, it's the masa that makes or breaks a tamale.

Here we go on assembly! Grandma always put an olive in hers, so we do too. Oh, and note the glass of wine - tamale assembly is a drinking job.

All in all, it took two days, a good chuck of cash, and a lot of patience to make seven dozen tamales for gifts and for our own enjoyment! This is a MUCH smaller batch than grandma used to make, but she had the whole family to help her make the 25-30 dozen we used to make. Not THAT is a lot of tamales! We still have yet to make the chicken, since we did not actually buy enough masa to finish. *sigh* Hopefully since the filling is already made, we can finish the chicken ones in a single evening. I expect to only get another three dozen, maybe four at most. H also wants to try our hand at green chile and cheese tamales too... I guess I better pick up at least another five pounds.

Even though it was a lot of work, our tamales turned out awesome, if I don't say so myself. Good enough to make me an honorary Mexican! I really want to make sure that we continue these traditions for my children - I want to be able to teach them grandma's recipe so they can in turn teach their children and grandchildren. I also want to learn to speak Spanish fluently so my children can grow up bilingual unlike H. Well, so far, I only have the tamales down.

And for those of you jonesin' for a tamale, I am considering making you all come over and work for your tamales next year! Tamale assembly GTG!


  1. I'd be down for a tamale GTG next year! That chili sauce looks to die for.

  2. You are definitely an honorary Mexican, welcome.

    We are doing 8-10 dozens on Sunday, they are a ton of work, but so much fun!

  3. Yum. I'm drooling over here. The olive is my favorite part!

  4. You're lucky I don't know where you live or I'd be sneaking in your window to steal me a dozen. Err, I mean taste one. ;)


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