Growing up I would visit my best friend in the whole wide world at her house in La Verne. Around the holidays I remember her family working endless hours in the kitchen making tamales. I have never attempted to make them myself so Jen and I asked her Aunt Cathy and her mom if they would show us some of their tricks. Here are some helpful hints to making perfect tamales.
Northgate Market – husks, pods, meat, Chile
1320 W Francisquito Ave
West Covina, CA 91790
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM
506 E Chapman Ave Placentia, CA 92870
Smart & Final: First Street 32oz. Monterey Jack cheese
Ingredients to make 150 tamales: cut the recipe in half for 75 tamales or less
– 4 bags of husks
– 10 lbs. pork butt
– 2 bags, 8 oz. each El Guaro Chile Guajillo entero new Mexico chile pods
– 22 lbs. medium prepared masa or make your own. Purchase from Rubalcava’s
– 5 cans, 27 oz. Ortega Fire Roasted Mild Whole Green Chiles, Ortega brand
– 3-5 blocks of cheese, 32oz. blocks. Natural Monterey Jack cheese. Brand: First Street
8 large trash bags
2 Large pots to cook pork and chilies
2 large bowls for Masa
2 medium bowls for chili juice and pork juice
2 tamale steamers
1 food processor
Double-up 2 large trash cans, add the bag of husks, cover with water, and then tie a knot at the top. Do this up to 4 times so you will have 4 double bags filled with husks and water. Let them soak all day, even overnight. Rinse and clean off all husks before loading them up with masa/meat.
In one large pot, add the whole pork butt and cover with water, salt and fresh garlic cloves. You can also add chopped white onion, optional. Boil the water until the pork is completely cooked and soft. This will take about 4 hours. You will be able to peel pork off with a fork if the pork is cooked enough. You could also slow cook in a crock pot on low for 8-10 hours. Once the pork is cooked, remove the fat. You can throw the fat away or save to make gravy at a later time. Keep the juice water from the pork to add back into the pork if it is too dry. Or add to the masa if it is not a perfect consistency. Let the pork cool and then shred the pork with your fingers in a large bowl. Set pork aside to work on chile sauce.
Take two bags of chile pod bags (16 oz. total) and remove the tops and all the seeds inside each pod. Boil the seeds until pods are completely soft. Don’t throw away the juice water from when boiling. Save the juice to add to the chilies at a later time. In a food processor, blend in the chile peppers until creamy. Add in the chile water if it is too thick and not blending.
In the large pork pot, a little at a time, add the chili sauce into the pork and mix together. You want the pork to be soupy, so it doesn’t dry out in the tamale steamer. Between the pork, chili paste, and leftover juice from the pork you should be able to get it to a creamy, meaty, look and feel.
The blocks of cheese should be cut in 3 x 3 slices, ½ inch thick. See photos for examples. Cut once in half lengthwise and then individual slices until it is all cut. You will use about 3-5 blocks depending on the width of cheese you use.
For your masa. It needs to be course (fine). If you bought it premade, split the amount in half. 11 pounds in each bowl. In one of the bowls, add the chili sauce to the masa for the pork tamales. For the green chile and cheese tamales, you can add some pork juice to the other bowl of masa to get it to the right consistency.
Rinse and clean off all husks.
Chile & Cheese Tamales: use the masa/pork juice on the husks. Lay out a small towel so the husks don’t move around. Put the ridged tough side of the husks facing down and the soft side up. You want to spread the masa on the fuller wider side of the husk. Use your hands, a spatula, or a spoon to spread the masa onto the husks. You will want to put enough masa to fill 3/4 of the husk and to both sides of the straight edges. Don’t be stingy. Who doesn’t like a thick masa tamale? Add one piece of cheese and then one green chile. The chile should point towards skinny end of the husk. Pull in both sides of husk towards the middle and end with flipping the pointy side over. To hold in place you can put a tad bit of masa on the husk and push the pointy side down onto the masa to hold in place. Optional: take a sliver of husk and tie a bow or knot around the entire tamale.
Pork Tamales: use the masa/chili sauce on the husks. Lay out a small towel so the husks don’t move around. Put the ridgity tough side of the husks facing down and the soft side up. You want to spread the masa on the fuller wider side of the husk. Use your hands, a spatula, or a spoon to spread the masa onto the husks. You will want to put enough masa to fill 3/4 of the husk and to both sides of the straight edges. Don’t be stingy. Who doesn’t like a thick masa tamale? Add in a spoonful or two of the pork/chili sauce mix onto the middle of the husk.
Tamale Steamer Pots:
Fill to the line with water, most steamers have a fill line. Insert the disk (strainer) above the water at the bottom of the pot. Add in the divider. If you don’t have a divider you can flip a coffee cup upside down. Make sure it is oven safe if you use a cup. The divider helps keep the tamales standing up.
Line your tamales along the bottom of the tamale steamers standing up. You want to look in and see the filling, not the bottoms of the tamales. You can stack the cheese ones on top of one another lying down if you only have one pot. Each tamale steamer will hold about 45-50 tamales. Set the tamale steamer pot on the stove and turn on high heat until you hear it boiling. Once you hear it boiling, turn down to your lowest heat. Steam the tamales for 4.5-6 hours depending on how thick your tamales are. When checking on the tamales use pot holders and open the lid arm’s length away from you so steam doesn’t hit you in the face. If you think they are done, pull one out and unwrap the husk to confirm it doesn’t stick. If it is sticking, they are not ready. If it doesn’t stick, take a bite out of the tamale. If it all tastes cooked fully through, they are done.
You can store these in the freezer for a couple months. To reheat them, just pop them in the microwave.
Cut the recipe down to making 75 tamales or one tamale pot full:
10 lbs. masa
1 bag of Chile’s
5 lbs. of pork
2 can of green chiles
1-2 blocks of cheese
Homemade masa recipes: