As so many of you know, I love to cook! Having some days at Mom’s place in Modesto, has afforded me the time and kitchen to have some fun. Yesterday was the day to tackle fresh tamales!
First on the list was to visit my favorite Mexican market, La Perla Tapatia, in Ceres, adjacent to Modesto. On my shopping list were corn husks, a pork leg, fresh chiles, and 15 pounds of “masa preparada.” I admit to cheating: making the masa (dough) from scratch is a more daunting task than I care to tackle, so I purchase the dough, freshly made while I wait, at this market.
Making tamales is not an exact science by any means and is wide open to lots of creativity. The fillings can be anything of your choice, and this time, in making three varieties, I chose pork in salsa verde, chicken is red sauce, and pineapple and raisins. The last ones are great for breakfast!
Once the meat was simmering, it was time to soak the dry corn husks. The easiest way I have found is to fill one half of the double sink (or a very large pot) with very hot water. Submerge the husks, just as they come out of the package, in the water, and place a weight on them to keep them submerged. They tend to float. The husks do not need to be separated until you are ready to use them.
I began with the sweet tamales first, as the filling, (pineapple, raisins and a small amount of brown sugar), did not need to be cooked. Single husks are dried lightly with a paper towel, then about 1/4 cup of the masa is spread evenly over one corner of the husk. It is important to keep the thickness pretty even, up to a quarter inch thick or less.
As you can see above, I like to hold the opened husk in both hands, using the pads of my thumbs to spread and position the masa. The filling (of your choice) is spread along the right edge of the masa. It truly only takes just slIghtly more than a tablespoon of filling. I used a filling of the simmered pork leg and a fresh green salsa I made from tomatillos, Mom’s green tomatoes from the garden, cilantro, chopped jalapeño and Serrano chiles, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. You then roll the husk, masa, and filling, fold over the long end, and it’s ready for the steamer pot.
Mom does not have a steamer, but I improvised with a large canning pot and a footed metal colander – a perfect fit! The tamales are placed standing up in the colander, folded end down, with the simmering water below, not touching the tamales. They are steamed for about ninety minutes until firm.
We will have tamales this evening on the 4th of July. The chicken ones will be made today, and the bulk of the 100 tamales will be frozen for future consumption. My daughter Karyn will be visiting in August, and she is my tamale kid! Her favorites are the sweet tamales, which are wonderful for breakfast. I just realized as I wrote that about Karyn, that she loves a filling of sweet corn. Hmmmm, looks like I’ve got a few more to make in addition to the chicken ones. Buen provecho my friends!