To start, you have to look at the process as three separate parts, meat preparation, dough preparation, and the putting together of all the ingredients. Lets get started. Remember this is your recipe to add too or do with out! Let us review the items you will need for it:
Large mixing bowl
Large stockpot with a steamer insert
Now that you have those items in hand, I will continue to disclose the ingredients you will need per step, along with step-by-step directions. It is key that you follow the preparation steps, as they all follow one another, so if you skip or do other wise it may prolong the process. Preparing the cornhusk is probably the easiest step; my grandmother always warned us about doing this step first or else you run the risk of forgetting, with all the busy work to come. You will need to buy 6 dozen dried cornhusks; you will have left over leafs but it is always better to have more than less, thats what my grandmother always said. To prepare the dried cornhusk, plug one side of the kitchen sink and fill it with hot water, then submerge the 6 dozen dried cornhusk. Let them sit, until all the other ingredients are prepared.
Before I proceed on, I find it necessary to let you know the ingredients you will need for each step. You will notice that the meat preparation goes along with the preparation of the chile sauce because my family treats this as one step, so will I.
1. Meat Preparation:
2 ½ lbs. Boneless pork butt
2 Garlic cloves
1 Tsp. Salt
½ lb. Whole dried California chile
1 Garlic clove
2 cups Water (stock saved from boiling the California chile)
2 Tbsp. Pork lard
2 Tbsp. Salt
2. Masa (dough preparation)
10 lbs. Masa (cornmeal flour)
4 cups Pork lard
¼ cup Water (stock saved from boiling of pork meat)
3 Tbsp. Baking powder
2 Tbsp. Salt
2 oz. Ground California chile powder (to color the masa)
Please note you can use this recipe and substitute the meat for chicken, shredded beef or any filling of your choice. My familys original recipe is made with pork and that is my choice of meat. So lets start, first place pork butt in medium-size stockpot. Add the 2 garlic cloves and salt. Add cold water to cover the pork. On high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let it simmer partly covered for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. After the pork is fully cook, remove the pork from the stock and let it cool at room temperature. Dont forget to reserve your ¼ cup pork for the masa preparation. Once cooked, begin shredding the meat into fine threads.
After that is complete in a large saucepan, boil the ½ lb of whole dried California chiles for about 10-20 minutes or until softened. Drain the chiles and reserve the water. Rinse the seeds out of he boiled chiles. Put the chiles and the garlic clove in a blender and blend well. Add the 2 cups of reserved water. In a heavy, large-size saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons pork lard over medium high heat. Add the drained chile puree very carefully because it will splatter. Reduce the heat to low. Cook over low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Take sauce off heat. Combine the pork with the chile sauce. Place the prepared meat off to the side and prepare masa.
I would like to disclose that the dough preparation takes someone with upper body strength and someone that does not mind getting their hands dirty. To start, place the 10 pounds of masa into a large mixing bowl. Pour ¼ cup pork stock and add the 3 tablespoons of baking soda over the masa evenly. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and begin mixing the masa with your hands. Before proceeding take a small saucepan and place the 4 cups of lard over a medium high heat, remove until completely melted. Add the pork lard and 2 ounces of California chile powder (this adds color to the masa) and knead the masa once more. Masa is ready when it starts to feel thick and compact. Pad it down in bowl and set it aside.
Before starting the tamale assembly drain the husks well; pat dry with paper towels. For each tamale spread about 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on teach cornhusk. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling of prepared pork, filling it lengthwise down the center. Folding the filled husk could be tricky; you start by placing it down on the counter top, fold the left and right side of the husk inward, then fold the top of the husk down and secure with a strips of cornhusk. This process could be the longest step, but if you can get plenty of hands helping you it could go by faster. This has to be the most fun part for my family; we share stories and laugh a lot during this process it become a bonding time between us.
Once you run out of masa, you are done with the tamale assembly. You may have meat left over and husks, it is okay the meat could be prepared in a taco or ate by itself. The husk will be used during the cooking process. At this point, the tamales are ready to be steamed. Use a large stockpot with wire lining or steamer insert. Add enough water as to keep it below the steamer. Add a few husks to prevent the tamales form getting wet. Tamales must be placed open side up along the side perimeter of the stockpot.
Place extra husks on top of the tamales and cover the pot. Steam for about an hour or until the husk peels away form the masa easily. You can serve warm or cooled they are tasty either way! Making tamales is a time-consuming endeavor. It takes my family almost a whole day to make a single batch, but my family finds it to be the ultimate Christmas gift. This tradition also makes us feel closer to our Mexican culture, which has been lost a little over the generations so this plate is symbolic to my family. I share this recipe in hopes that you too could share the experience of making the dish in company of your family, and share the bonding moments my family experiences. Enjoy!