Making tamales has been traced back to the Ancient Mayan people. It is believed that Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. A tradition found in many cultures from the Americas to central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Each couture has its own recipe which is typically made of masa (a starchy dough) stuffed with pork or other ingredients wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and cooked by steaming or boiling. The wrapping is discarded before eating and tamales are often served topped with sauce. In recent years tamale making is typically thought of as a group of woman working together preparing dozens of tamales, sharing them with family and giving them as gifts around the holiday season. There are many ways to make tamales and here is our version.
To prepare the Pork
- 1 Large Onion sliced crosswise into 3 rounds
- 4 Cloves Garlic skins removed
- 1 Jalapeño peppers
- 1 Tbs Vegetable oil
- 3 Pounds Pork shoulder
- 1 Dried Dried Pasilla chili
- 1 Dried Dried Guajillo chilies
- 1 Carrot
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 5 Cloves
- 1 Tsp Oregano
- 1 Tsp Coriander seeds ground
- 2 Tsp Salt
For the sauce
- 2 Large Onions minced
- 3 Ounces Dried Pasilla chili
- 3 Ounces Dried Guajillo chilies
- 4 Large Cloves Garlic minced
- 2 Tbs Sesame seeds toasted
- 5 Large Tomatoes
- 2 Tsp Honey
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 2 Tsp Oregano
- 1/2 Tsp Cumin ground
- 1/2 Tsp Coriander seeds ground
For the Masa
- 4 Cups Masa
- 4 Tsp Baking powder
- 2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Butter
- 2 1/2 Cups Reserved pork stock
For the tamales
- 1 Package tamales dried corn husks
To Prepare the pork
- Gather your ingredients together.
- Move your oven rack to the top position and set broiler to high. Place the onion, garlic and jalapeño on a baking sheet and broil on each side flipping once browned.
- In a skillet large enough for the pork to fit in, heat up the vegetable oil on high. Add the pork and brown for 5-7 minutes on each side making sure the meat has contact with the pan until each side is nicely browned.
- In a large stock pot add about 5 cups of water and add the charred onion, garlic, jalapeño, 1 Pasilla chili, 1 Guajillo chili, carrot, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, Mexican oregano, ground coriander and salt.
- Add the pork and heat the pot up to boiling and then bring down to simmer, cover and cook until the pork falls off the bone, about 3 hours.
- Transfer the pork to a bowl, and strain the liquid reserving the stock for the masa.
- When the pork has cooled, shred by using two forks or your hands.
To prepare the sauce
- Wipe down the dried chillis with a damp paper towel and cut the tops off. Cut down the length of each chile so you can open it up. Remove the seeds and light colored membranes, and lay the chilies flat on a baking sheet.
- Put the chillies in a 350 degree oven and roast for a few minutes until you can smell the sweet fragrance of the peppers. This will bring out the flavor, but be careful not to burn, they will get bitter.
- Submerge the roasted chiles in a bowl of boiling water, remove from the heat and rehydrate for 10-15 minutes. Gently remove the chilies and discarding the liquid.
- We used a food processor to mince the onions.
- Heat up the oil in a skillet and add the minced onions and garlic. Fry over medium low heat until the onions are fully caramelized, this will take about 40 minutes.
- Add the sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely ground. Add the tomatoes and puree.
- Add the drained chiles and caramelized onions and run the food processor until smooth.
- With the food processor running add about 1/4 cup of reserved pork stock. Add more if needed, you should not need more than 1 cup. The mixture should be smooth and without clumps, but still thick. Add the honey, salt, oregano, cumin and coriander and puree until well incorporated.
- Add the pureed sauce to the pork and stir to fully incorporate.
- Separate the corn husks and rehydrate the in hot water. Once they are soft, dry the husks with a clean towel.
To prepare the masa
- Whisk together the butter, baking powder and salt, until fluffy. We used a Kitchen Aid.
- Add the masa slowly and the reserved pork stock to the butter mixture and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl. The mixture should be the consistency of cookie dough. Add more liquid if needed.
- To test your masa drop a little ball into a glass of water, it should float on the surface.
To prepare the tamales
- Place 1 cornhusk on a clean surface.
- Use a flat spatula to spread a thin layer of masa on the husk and place a spoonful of pork mixture in the center.
- Fold the side flaps of the husks together and bring up the bottom, similar to folding a burrito. Leaving a nice rectangular package with 3 sides closed and one side open. Place the tamale with the flaps facing down on a baking sheet. Wrap all the tamales.
- Depending on your preference you can tie the tamale with a strip of the husk.
- Prepare a deep pot with a steamer insert by filling the pot with water until the waterline is just below the level of the steamer insert. Place the tamales in the steamer vertically, with the open end facing up.
- Generously wet a kitchen towel, and place the towel(s) on the sides of the tamales and cover the tops before putting the lid on. This helps to keep the steam in the pot.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat so you can barely see a steady stream of steam escaping. Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 hours. Make sure you check the steamer periodically to make sure you don't run out of water.
- To serve, unwrap your steamed tamales, leaving them on the husks. Cover with your favorite salsa and sour cream and serve.
- These tamales will keep for about 1 week in the fridge, or for a few months in the freezer. You can re-steam or heat them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel to warm them up.