Chilly Today, Hot Tamale

Tamales are by far one of the most labor intensive mexican foods, yet all our hard work is forgotten when we start eating them. They are absolutely delicious with so many varieties, who could resist?

This round, I have decided to intentionally divvy up the workload into two days.

Day 1 will be filling(s) and Day 2 will be masa and assembly.

Filling(s)? you may ask?

Yes, pork, beef, chicken, bean, cream cheese, other cheeses, tomatillo salsa, red sauce, and others I do not know about.

Day 1


I have 3 four pound pork sirloin roasts that I got for a buck a pound; bone in. Spend the extra .27 per pound and buy boneless.

I am only cooking two for this round, and that is a lot of pork.

There are many ways to cook, and I’d had my druthers, I’d druther use the Dutch oven on the stovetop but my 7 quart Dutch oven is too small, so I went with a crockpot. This will cook on high for four hours.

Also it can be roasted. If you get the boneless, put a nice coating of rub on the outside from black pepper, seasoned salt, garlic powder, cumin, chili power and sear it good in your cast iron before you cook it. 350° for four hours. Same in Dutch oven. Be sure to add water covering the roast half way as you want to save the juice to add to your masa later.

To your water, I put in a whole onion, a serrano pepper, a couple bay leaves. At this time, you can add a variety of peppers; whole or chopped. If you use the hotter ones like serrano, habanero or other hot ones, be sure to wear gloves, because if you touch your eye or other “sensitive places” it will burn like a Gitmo torture chamber. Trust me on this one.

I am making red sauce this round as well. We will use the red sauce to add another layer of flavor to our pork (when it’s done) and our masa.

I bought some bulk dried peppers; about a pound. Using scissors and a sharp knife, I cut the tops off, and opened the peppers up to remove all the seeds. I tossed the pepper into a large pot on the stove with hot water to rehydrate the peppers. When the last pepper is in the hot water, I let them steep for 30 minutes.



Remove from water (save water) and let them drain a bit. Food process them with a little pepper water. You may add 1 1/2 tsp salt, a little cumin at this time.

Pour into sieve and strain out the chunky skins. You may push the peppers through the sieve to speed up the straining process. The skins will be left behind.

If you have lots of time, you can take the peppers out of the water, lay them on your cutting board skin side down, and scrape the meaty pepper off and save it. It’s harder than you think.



I tried first the food processor route (I had not done this route before). One must add lots of pepper water to the processor so as to have the pepper frappé with enough moisture to push it through the sieve. I had to force it through the sieve. I next tried the “scrape it off” method. The problem with that is that when scraping, I got a lot of skin with it so I had to run it through the sieve anyway. A food mill would probably be a little more efficient. The end result yielded about a cup and a half. Worth it? Jury is still out on that one.

Cover and refrigerate sauce and pepper water.

Tomatillo Salsa (salsa verde)

Yet another layer of flavor is the green sauce. I had a little over a pound of tomatillos. Remove the husks and wash them. Half them and put onto baking sheet with an onion and serrano pepper. Put under the broiler (high temp) until the tomatillo skins get blackened. Remove from oven and allow to cool.



Put all into food processor (juices too) with 1 tsp salt and a little cumin and garlic powder. Cover and refrigerate.

Tamale Day

Start by grabbing a huge handful of husks and soaking them in a potful of hot water for at least thirty minutes to soften them.

I heated the pepper juice, pork juice, red sauce, and  half of the shredded pork. I added a tsp salt and cumin to the pork as well as half the red sauce. I added some pepper  juice also to rehydrate the pork. Not runny wet, but moistened.

Meanwhile, I am mixing the masa. 6 cups of the Maseca, 1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp salt, hand full of dried parsley, 1 C of the green sauce, 1 C of the pepper juice, 1 C melted lard, and about 4 cups water (need 8 cups liquid not counting the lard). Mix until the consistency of that of soft butter because you want to spread this on your husks.






Remove husks from hot water and drain. Then you must dry them before you spread on your masa. Set your assembly line with husks (I dry a dozen or to at a time), spread on your masa, put a liberal amount of filling, bring the two sides together so the masa on each side touches the other, then wrap the husk around then fold up on the open side from bottom. I tied these with some strips of husk. I’ve had problems with them opening up inside the steamer.

That tray is about three dozen. That was half the pork. Next, I did the other half. (My aching back.)

Steamed them for an hour and a half. I think that is a little much. An hour would have been enough as some of the tamales cooked to the husk and were difficult to remove from said husk.

Six dozen tamales, give or take from this round. I am done in. There is still masa left over. I thought about (very briefly) make some bean tamales, or some cream cheese but decided against it. I was at this for six hours today, and I still have dishes to do.

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