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A Gringo Learns to Make Tamales

My MIL (Mother-in-law) called us New Year's Morning and inquires if I would be willing to help her make homemade tamales. I figured taking down the old Christmas Trees could wait and we agree to head over.

This is my first real tamale lesson. When we arrive, she was elbow deep in Masa. (Gringo translation: Masa = Dough.)

Nana told me the Masa should be the consistency of frosting. She was not sure if we ever got to that point.  I could not tell the difference!

My next job was to prepare the hojas. (Gringo translation: corn leaves.) We soaked them in water and removed any hairs that might have been stuck to the hojas. 

 Nana had made the mole and the pork the day before. So with finished Masa and clean hojas, we were ready to begin assembling the tamale.  I learned you want an even thin layer of masa on the smooth side of the hojas. If you put it on the rough side of the hojas the tamale will stick to the hojas after cooking.

I preferred to use the back of a spoon to smooth on the masa. My husband preferred to use his fingers.

Next is the mole sauce. The last step is to fold. the tamale. You fold each of the sides in, overlapping them in the middle. Then you take the bottom, pinch it and twist it up to the top.

Tamale are cooked by steam. So we used large steamer baskets with a couple of dozen tamales at a time. It takes about an hour to steam the tamale. Depending on the size of your steamer make sure you do not run the pot dry of water. 

The Short Chic got in on the action. She was not the best at spreading the masa but anyone who gets the tamale she made will know she did not skimp on the pork! The Short Chic was instrumental in getting everyone in the whole family motivated to get involved. She told everyone, "if you want to eat tamale, then you have to help make tamale!"

So, her Papa helped.

Her Daddy helped.

Even her big brother helped. (They also had to wear aprons that she picked out for them!)

I think judging the right amount of masa, mole, and pork is a tricky part. First we ran out of hojas, but Nana had an extra stash of them. When we ran out of pork, Nana told me about "sweet tamale". 

Sweet tamale is made when you add brown sugar, granulated sugar, raisins, and cinnamon to the extra masa. There is no meat or mole. But you fold them and steam them just the same. Our sweet tamale was a bit smaller than the pork tamale because we were running low on hojas.

Nana said they are perfect with coffee in the morning. Which is exactly how I ate mine this morning! So, yummy!

In the end, I put nearly four dozen tamales and two dozen sweet tamales in the freezer yesterday.

I hope you all had a great New Year's Day! This gringo sure did!


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