Tamales are a very labor intensive food. Masa is a spanish word for dough, and it was originally made with sun dried, or fire dried corn kernels that have been cooked in lime-water. This wet corn was ground on a stone plate, with a stone-like mallet called a metate.
A stone matate, or grinder
Luckily, these days women can find masa flour at the grocery store. But they still have their favorite grocers that carry really 'fresh' masa and they will travel for miles to get it. When they mix the masa and it is ready to make the tamales, the texture is kinda like a cross between gelatin, and peanut butter. Kinda.
Tamale ingredients vary widely, as far as the spices, and degree of heat, but the main ingredients for the filling is pork, beef, or chicken. A 8-10 lb. roast is usually slow boiled with the spices in the water for 6-10 hours and then the water is reserved to add in mixing the masa. The meat is then placed in a large bowl and shredded with forks. Other great ingredients are of course cheese, corn, and onions.
Corn husks are used to enfold the tamale ingredients. Husks too can be purchased by the bag full here. These corn husks are left to soak in warm water while the other tamale preparations are going on, to make them pliable enough to fold. The moisture aids in the steaming of the tamales later.
The trick that is handed down from generation to generation besides the recipe, is also the folding of the tamale. There is a definate skill in folding them just right. But, they tell me practice makes perfect. :)
My friend Blanca's family make tamales and they know how much my husband LOVES them. So whenever they make them they call us to come over, or they bring them to us. The other night was one of those occasions. When we went over, their apartment was filled with family, men watching TV, kids running around playing, and the women happily chattering in the steamy kitchen. They are wonderful people. I could NOT believe the size of the tamale steaming pot that was on the stove. There were literally hundreds of tamales in ONE pot. Blanca says that at Thanksgiving and Christmas time they have 4-6 pots like this FULL of tamales.
HUGE galvanized bucket steamer.
They had been feeding everyone out of this all day.
They had also gotten us a huge bag of them to take home as well.
This is Blanca's Momma, Susana Lugo
Chief cook! ;) Look at the size of that pot!
Tamales were originally made by the spanish when the soldiers would leave home for weeks at a time. Tamales were their women's answer to meals-on-the-go. They would stack them in the soldiers saddle bags. We didn't get our tamales in saddle bags. Ours were in Zip-lock bags...but we definately ate some on our way home. Muchos gracias Susana & Blanca!
Thats where all the pumpkin muffins I made went. That night I sent Jerry with a huge bag of muffins for them. Thats the cool thing about this time of year, sharing! Sharing recipes, homes, food, laughs, invitations, traditions and love.
Here is a great website if you are interested in making tamales yourself -OR- you can invite your family over to help you out. :) http://makingtamales.com/