Traditional Tamales

Traditional Tamales

6 lbs. beef rump roast

6 lbs. pork roast

12 lb. masa*

1 lb. whole red chiles, mild or hot

Lard or Crisco®




Salt and pepper

Baking powder

1 lb. dried corn husks

NOTE: The chiles are the dried ones that you see hanging outside doors or under ramadas in the Southwest and can be purchased at any grocery store in the Southwest or packaged in the ethnic foods section of many grocery stores elsewhere.

* Masa can be purchased at any tortilla factory or grocery store in the Southwest or in the refrigerated section of the grocery store in many other areas of the country.

To prepare chile paste

Break caps off all red chiles and shake seeds out. Soak red chiles in hot water until soft. Blend or process chiles into a paste using a small amount of water in which they were soaked to help it move in the food processor or blender. Put paste through a sieve to remove the skins. Throw skins away. This may be made way ahead of time and refrigerated until you make the tamales.

To prepare meat

Use the cheapest roasts you can find!!! Try to cook the meat the day before assembling tamales, keeping it in the refrigerator until tamale-making time. Cut meat into large chunks. Cover meat with water in a very large pot. Add 6 to 12 garlic cloves and 2 or 3 tablespoons salt. Cook meat, covered, for 3 hours or until meat is tender and falling apart. Remove meat from juice and shred. SAVE THE JUICE. Mix meat sauce with the meat.

To prepare meat sauce

Melt 2/3 cup lard or Crisco® and add 2/3 cup flour. Boil for 2 minutes. Pour over shredded meat and mix. Add chili paste, one cup at a time, to taste. Add 1 tablespoon of cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To mix masa

Place 12 pounds masa (room temperature) in a very large pan and mix with 1 1/4 cups lard or Crisco®, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 cup chile paste and 2 cups meat broth.

Mix with hands. Add more meat broth (about 1 cup). Add more chile paste for color if desired. Work all ingredients together with hands for about 10 minutes. The dough is ready when a small lump floats slowly to the bottom of a glass of water.

To assemble tamales

Soak corn husks in hot water until soft. Using the larger husks, place each husk waxy side up (ribbed side down). Spread masa onto each husk out to the wide edge. Place a small portion of meat in the center of masa. (You may place a stuffed green olive on the meat if you care to.) Roll husks and fold back, wide sides to center, then tapered flap up.

Set a wire rack or vegetable steamer in the bottom of a large kettle. Put water in kettle just up to the bottom of the rack or steamer. Set tamales in kettle standing on end. Pack them in, allowing room for expansion of masa as they cook. Steam for about 20 to 40 minutes, or until masa pulls away from corn husk easily.


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