Tamales are traditionally made around the holidays Christmas and New Year’s, but when my freezer’s supply runs out, which is usually around March, I start craving them, hoping my dad might get the inkling to make more. No tamale I’ve eaten in any restaurant or bought pre-made could compare to the recipe and technique used by first my grandma, and now my dad.
My dad and I have started our own tradition of making tamales together in small batches, and since they require some teamwork and a bit of time, our method seems to alleviate the feeling that making tamales is a gargantuan task that can only be tackled once a year.
My dad’s process requires no secret recipe, but it’s always been something that intimidated me, and I’ve yet to make them on my own. However, after spending this father’s day making tamales with my dad, I think I’m ready to try it on my own next time.
My dad had already prepared the meat ahead of time, but he assured me it would be easy to do on my own next time. He used 5 lbs of pork butt (actually the front shoulder of the pig), cooked slowly, then seasoned and cooked with the mole sauce.
Here was our process of making the tamales (I’ll post the full recipe when I go through all the steps on my own).
Since the local SaveMart carries the corn masa only seasonally, we headed to Vallarta Supermarket, where there was quite a selection. We found the Vallarta brand, which contained no lard (we’d add vegetable oil, baking powder, salt, broth, and chili powder to it at home) and was made fresh in the store.
At home, we soaked the corn husks in warm water until they were pliable. After mixing the masa, which we originally added too much broth to and had to re-thicken with corn meal, we began the process of spreading it on the smooth side of the ojas (corn husks). Then we added the filling, which was the meat mixed with mole sauce and black olives, wrapped the edges around each side, and folded in half.
My dad showed me how to correctly prepare the tamale pot, which is basically a giant steamer. He placed four dimes at the bottom of the pot, filled it with a few inches of water, then added the metal divider which we would place the tamales on top of. We used an upside-down funnel in the center of the pot and places the tamales, open side up, around it in a circle. Next, we used the rest of the ojas to cover the tamales, creating a tent that would direct the steam and water around the cooking tamales, not in them.
We placed the pot on the stove and listened for the sound of the dimes rattling, indicating that there was still water at the bottom. If the dimes are quiet, you need to add more water, or the tamales will burn.
We cooked the tamales for about 2 hours, and then removed them to let them cool, though of course I couldn’t wait very long before enjoying one. My dad and I divided up the tamales, and knowing they would all be eaten within the next few days, I set out to make them very soon on my own.