The day before: Cook the beef and pork, covered in a 300 degree oven for about 4 hours.
When tender remove the meat and save the drippings. Meanwhile, stem and seed the chili
pods. You might want to use kitchen gloves for this step. Pull off the stem and tear open
the pods down one side, rinsing under running water. The seeds will wash out. Discard the
Remove the chili from the skin by simmering the pods in a covered pot
of water for about
15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. The pods should be a bright red color.
Scrape the pulp from the skin, chop the pulp and set aside. Also save the chili pod water.
Discard the skins as they and the seeds tend to be bitter. Peel and chop the heads of garlic
or use two tablespoons of chopped garlic (in oil) and sauté in two tablespoons of lard.
Combine and mix well: cooked meat, sautéed garlic, chili pod
pulp, 4 tablespoons ground
comino, 4 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons ground black pepper and a pinch of whole oregano.
Refrigerate mixture overnight to allow the flavors to develop and to permeate the meat.
Bright and early the next day
Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Put all the corn shucks in the sink or a tub and fill
with warm water. They are inclined to float so you will have to weigh (push) them down
into the water. Soak for two hours minimum-the longer the better. This softens the shucks
and makes them easier to use. Begin separating the corn shucks one by one until you have a
large stack ready.
You will want to keep the tamales off the bottom of the pot as they
steam. A cushioning layer
is needed. This can be a few corn shucks, overturned tea cups or aluminum foil crushed up.
The tamales will cook in a steam bath. By spacing the tamales off the bottom of the pot, you
can add water for steam without the tamales sitting in water. Get your pots ready.
Now for the masa
In a large bowl, place the 12 lbs. of wet masa which was prepared earlier. Gradually add 8
cups of melted lard, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chili powder, 8 tablespoons paprika, about
6 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons powdered garlic, 2 cups of the chili pod water and half of the
meat drippings you collected from the cooked meat. Work this mixture with your hands until
thoroughly mixed (an electric mixer makes this step much easier). The main idea here is to
work air into the masa until it is moist and fluffy. It is impossible to over mix.
Now comes the spreading
Assemble the helpers around the kitchen table and everyone should have a flat plate or tray
and a butter knife, spatula, or masa spreader. Take an unbroken shuck and place it on the
tray in front of you, small end up or away from you.
Using a butter knife, spatula, or masa spreader, dip into the bowl of
prepared masa and take
out approximately one heaping tablespoon. Spread it on the shuck in such a way that it covers
the lower two-thirds of the right 4 inches of the shuck. The masa should be thick enough so
that you cannot see through to the shuck.
Next, spread some meat filling on the middle of the masa. The
thickness of the masa and meat
filling is strictly personal preference. You decide how much masa you would like around your
filling. Think of other tamales you have eaten and decide what you like best.
The tamale is then rolled over starting from the side with the masa
and the meat. The unspread
side covers the outside and holds it together. The unfilled end is then folded over to the middle.
As you roll up the tamales, stand them 'shoulder to shoulder', with
the open end facing up. After
filling the pot, add 1 cup or more of water and put a tight fitting lid on it; steam for about 1 hour
or until the masa peels away from the shuck. The tamale tester gets to taste the first one.
You may have to occasionally add water in order to keep the pot from boiling dry. Be sure to let
the tamales cool for 10-15 minutes so they become firm before eating.
(If the meat filling runs out and you have some extra masa, bean tamales
can be made simply
by substituting refried beans for the meat before rolling. A thin slice of jalapeno or a strip of
fried bacon can also be added to the beans. Chicken filling can be made by boiling some
chicken and seasoning with comino, chili powder, garlic, and salt to taste.)
After cooking the tamales, they can be wrapped in aluminum foil and
frozen for up to 3 months.
You can steam them right out of the freezer, about 20-30 minutes.
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