Monday, November 14, 2011

It's almost tamale time!

The end of the year is quickly approaching and usually it means shopping, running around and eating lots of food!

In my family, every single year except for 1 year, we always make homemade tamales. Well, to be specific, my mom makes everything and some of us help assemble. If my mom wasn't around, we wouldn't have any homemade tamales. God bless her!

My mom told my siblings and I "You kids need to learn how to make these tamales because there will be a point when your dad and I won't be able to do it anymore." And since I'm the one kid who actually cooks and bakes, I figured I'll give it a try.

Here's a pic of last year's batch. I think we used about 90 lbs of masa. We always mean to count how many we make each year, but we get too overwhelmed and lose count. Maybe I'll try this year.

I remember my mom telling me that the very first time she made tamales (masa from scratch), they had a big gathering with family and friends. She recalls how horrible they tasted and everyone was so sweet and ate them anyway. No one said they tasted bad, but they didn't have the heart to tell her they weren't very good. It's the thought that counts, right? I wonder how bad they really were!

I don't recall ever making the masa with lard which is traditional. Granted lard makes it tastier, but you can use other substitutes instead like shortening. So my mom made them with Crisco. She'd take out the big metal container and mix up the masa by hand. She never used a hand mixer because the amount we made required to do it by hand. It seriously is a workout. The test that the masa was "done" was if you put a little blob of it in a glass of water that it floated. If it fell to the bottom of the glass, it isn't ready.

The corn husks soak in hot water until you are ready to making the tamales. We used to make only 3 types of tamales: beef, pork and picadillo (ground beef). But then my best friend went vegetarian so my mom didn't want her left out so tried to make a cheese tamale. This was back in the late 90s. Both the picadillo and cheese have slivers of chili in it to add some spice to it.

So my mom makes the fillings and then we start a tamale assembly line. We start spreading the masa over the corn husks and then my mom starts grabbing them and filling them with yummy goodness. After we finish one filling, my mom fills a pot and cooks them. We pretty much work like little piggies to get them all done. We can't cook them all at once, so we box them up and put them in the fridge while my mom cooks them in shifts over a few days. Once they're cooked, they freeze well for several months (if they last that long).

To cut down the labor, we now buy prepared masa from a local grocery store. Either way, it is a labor of love and a lot of work, but well worth it. This time around, I'll be visiting my folks in early December to make the ones we give away so folks have them for Christmas.

This year is the year of big changes in our family and it's time to start learning the traditions so my generation can keep them going. Because it doesn't quite feel like Christmas in our family like tamales cookin' on the stove.

For more fun holiday traditions, check out the EtsyGreetings Team Holiday Blog Hop below by clicking on either arrow!


  1. You've reminded me that I need to schedule a trip to get tamales before the lines get too long at my favorite spot! Thanks, and thanks for keeping the tradition going!

    Cheers from FarFlungCards

  2. Wow - what a great story! My mouth is watering...


  3. Tamales sound like fun to make and delicious to eat. :) Thanks for sharing your family tradition.

  4. Tamales sound really yummy! It is good that you learned to make them, now you can pass it down to your children.

  5. It sounds like you've got your work cut out there!

  6. Wonderful post! My family makes handmade cavotteli each year, it is a small shell like pasta. You have to hand knead and hand roll them all. Love it though as we all get to pitch in and help. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I love your tamale tradition. I love tamales, but have never made them. Your family story is wonderful.

  8. What a great tradition. I bet they are delicious.

  9. ive never had Tamales before but they sure sound good!!

  10. I never had tamales but sounds really good. It seems a lot work involved but I agree with you, we need to keep the tradition going.

  11. I couldn't agree more. Our traditions are a precious thing. May your tamales keep cooking for many more decades to come.

    Thanks for sharing.
    -Kate ♥

  12. thanks for everyone comments! i'll have to a follow up post about how my "training" goes in a few weeks! hopefully i won't be too tamale'd out! :)

    and for those of you who haven't had tamales, you must try them! but get them homemade!! unless you know of a good restaurant that makes them :)