This December marked my 4th year in a row of tamale-making. I wrote a step-by-step tutorial of my first experience HERE, and apparently it’s a topic people are interested in, because it was our most pinned/viewed post during December.
Of course, you learn as you go, so each year tamales get easier and easier to me. This year, I have to say, was the best year yet! I have streamlined the process that makes the tamale-making much more manageable. On the “tamale making” day, I started at 8:30 and by 11 we were completely done with assembly and the tamales were on the stove steaming.
I adapted the original recipes to make them less time consuming without, in my opinion, losing the “integrity” of the taste. So, please feel free to read my original post, but here is how to do it in much less time! By breaking down the steps into three days, all the prep work is done and makes “Tamale-Making Day” go much smoother.
Day 1: Make the Ancho Sauce
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
If you have never cooked with dry chilis before, making the entire batch of sauce with chilis can be daunting. Just the time spent over the strainer alone is enough to turn you off of never doing it again. So this year, I made some adjustments to my sauce. I still rehydrated a dozen chili anchos, but I also added enchilada sauce to the mix. This kept the nice ancho flavor, without some of the bitterness, and made the process much more manageable.
12 dried ancho chilis (these should be raisin-like and not crispy-dried),
2 (19 oz) cans of Enchilada Sauce,
2 tsp. oregano,
1 tsp. cumin,
1 tsp. salt,
1 Tbs. sugar.
Steps: Heat a pot of water to boiling on the stove. Open the dried ancho chilis, scrape out all the seeds and stems. Once water is boiling, turn off heat and immerse the chilis in the water to rehydrate. Cover. This takes about 30 minutes. Once the chilis are rehydrated (they will change color and become more pliable), move them with tongs to a blender. Blend them into a paste. Add the spices and about half a can of enchilada sauce and blend again until well mixed. Pour into a pan on the stove, add the remaining can and a half of enchilada sauce and heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, then cool and pour into jars or a container that can go in the fridge (I used two quart jars).
Day 2: Prepare the Meat
Prep: 15-20 minutes
Crock Pot: 6-8 hours.
In the past, we have always made pork tamales, but I’m more of a beef girl, so this year, I decided to go with beef.
6 lbs. beef roast
1/2 cup chopped onion
8-10 garlic cloves
Cut the roast into 1-2 inch cubes. I cut most of the big pieces of fat off but some fat is okay. Place in the crock pot. Pour seasonings on top. I probably put in a couple of Tbs. of cumin and about 1/4 cup of chili powder, but you can do what “smells right” to you. Cook in the crock pot on low all day.
*Note: I have a KitchenAid mixer that I LOVE. If you don’t have a stand mixer that will chop beef, I’m sure you could use a fork for this step:
For me, when the meat is cooked in it’s juices, I take the meat pieces out a little at a time and blend in my mixer (I show how I do this in THIS post). It will shred the beef for you perfectly. Return the meat back to its juices, and unplug the crock pot to let the meat cool. Once the meat is cool, I take the whole bowl out of my crock pot and place it in the fridge. If yours doesn’t detach, you can put the meat in a separate bowl or ziplock bag.
Day 3: Tamale Assembly
Time: Most of your morning
Step 1: Set out your meat & ancho sauce
You don’t have to heat the meat to make your tamales, but go ahead and set the meat and the sauce out on the counter so they can be coming to room temperature as you make the masa.
Step 2: Prepare the corn husks
You will need to purchase a package of corn husks at a Mexican market or even regular grocery stores carry them in Texas around the holidays, especially. Fill your sink with hot water. Separate each individual corn husk, brushing off any corn silks or dirt, and place them in the water to soften. You may need to set a plate or something on top of them to make sure they sink and stay covered in water. I flip them every now and then to make sure they’re all getting saturated. You can leave them soaking while you prepare the masa. (Once they’re soft, set them on a towel & pat dry).
Step 4: Prepare the masa
10 lbs. masa (these come in 5 lbs. packages at a Mexican grocer already prepared with water and lime. Make sure you get one with NO SALT added, but if that’s all you can find, it’s fine, just don’t add salt when you prepare it).
2 lbs. lard
4 Tbs. salt
4 cups chicken stock
I divide this job into four batches in my kitchenaid mixer. For each batch, melt 8 oz. of lard on the stove. Crumble 5 lbs. of the prepared masa into your mixer. Add 1 Tbs. salt. Start the mixer. Alternate pouring in the melted lard with 1 cup of chicken stock, then mix on a relatively high speed for several minutes until the mixture resembles a butter-like spread. When the masa is ready, a pinch of it will float in a cup of cold water. If it sinks, you just need to whip it longer. Eventually, it will float. Promise.
Step 5: Assemble
Pour your chili sauce into your meat and mix well.
Pat your corn husks dry.
Put all the masa in a big bowl or container.
Bring all these things to the table. Another thing that I find to be a HUGE time saver is a masa spreader. I found mine at HEB on an endcap of the canning supply aisle. Watch this video, and it explains how to spread the masa onto your cornhusks:
Place a spoonful of the meat mixture into the center of your masa, fold both sides over, and then the top (with no masa on it) down. Stack these into a pan as you go. When you have enough, it’s time to steam the tamales.
Step 5: Steam
What you need is a pan with a steamer tray at the bottom, similar to this one:
You want to leave room in the middle to pour in additional water, as it evaporates, but you just layer your tamales into the steamer, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and then the lid, and then steam on medium heat. I put a penny in the bottom, so you can hear the water boiling. If the penny stops making noise, you need to add water.
Steaming your tamales can take a while, depending on how many tamales you make. With all the ingredients above, I made about 10 dozen tamales. You can start checking for doneness after an hour or two. When they are done, the corn husks will peel away from the tamale easily without the masa being gummy.
Once you’re done, you have about 10 dozen tamales to show for your hard work! Eat some, share some with friends, and freeze the rest!