For years I’ve wanted to make tamales but was intimidated by the process and work that goes into it.  I’ve always heard it’s a job that works best with several people to help prep, assemble and package.   Since I don’t have extended family around to help me with this mission, I asked Joe if he would give up a weekend to help me.  He was happy to help since he loves tamales.  I went all out and made three different kinds of tamales, just in case Joe never wanted to do this again.  This labor  took 3 days to complete but I can now say I have home made tamales in the freezer.  I think if I give Joe some time he may come around and help me again someday.  We’ve been considering some sweet filled tamales next time around, but for now let me tell you about the first batch made with Pork and a Verde sauce with Hatch green chiles and cheese.

Day 1:  Make Verde Sauce . . . I’m going to fire roast the poblano chile, tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeno.  I have some Hatch green chile that has already been roasted and peeled, cilantro, lime juice honey and salt to taste.

You can roast these in the oven on the broiler setting or if you have a gas grill, set the veggies on a roasting pan with holes or slits.  Char over all sides of chiles and tomatillos.  Onions will start to separate and garlic will become soft.

Transfer the chiles and tomatillos into plastic bags to steam.  The onion and garlic can be set aside for now.

After the chiles and tomatillos have sweat it out for 15 – 20 minutes, peel, stem and core them.  Place everything into a blender, add 1/4 cup lime juice and 1 tablespoon honey.

Puree until you have a slightly chunky consistency.  Salt to taste.

This is certainly not necessary but I decided to slow cook the pork overnight.  So about 10 pm I’m browning a 2 3/4 pound pork shoulder roast in a cast iron skillet seasoned with salt and pepper.  Just drizzle a little olive oil in the pan and brown over all sides over medium high heat.

Since I’ve got two roasts going tonight I’ve got one in the dutch oven and this one in the slow cooker.  I placed it in the cooker with a can of chicken stock to keep it moist.  I’ll get up and turn it every couple of hours.  Normally I would cook it at medium anywhere from 4 to 6 hours but I’m cooking this one on the low setting for about 8 hours.

Day 2:  The roast is ready and turned out juicy and tender. Real easy except the getting up every 2 hours.  I can always catch up on my sleep later . . .

I set it in a cake pan for easy access.  Take two forks and gently pull it apart, or in my case it just falls apart.  I saved the broth to use later.  If you want you can strain it and use it to make the masa.

Take about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of the verde salsa and mix in with the pork.

And here’s the pork filling for the tamales.

Here are the ingredients to make the tamale dough, tamale masa harina, lard, salt, baking powder and stock.  If you’ve saved your stock and want to use it that is fine.  I made the dough in batches.  Each batch will make approximately 25 tamales.

Place about a cup of lard into a mixer and whip on medium for a minute or two.  I just left it running while I measured out the dry ingredients.

Mix together 4 cups masa harina, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Alternately add masa harina mixture and broth to lard, beating well after each addition.  Add just enough broth to make a thick cookie dough like texture.  I found about 3 cups was about right.

The texture should resemble cookie dough.

Take your corn husks and begin soaking in warm water for 20 minutes or so.  Rinse to remove any corn silk.

The corn husks range in size, some smaller and some quite large.  I had to adjust the amount of masa to place inside the husks.  We kept a bowl of water nearby and would dip our fingers when the masa became too sticky.  Roll it into a ball ranging from about golf ball size to a little larger and start pressing to 1/8 inch thickness outward leaving 1/2 inch clear on each side.  Leave enough room at the top and bottom if folding both ends.  Keep in mind the masa will expand as it steams so a thin layer will make for a tastier tamale and not all dough.

Next spread about 2 tablespoons of the pork verde mixture in the center of the masa.

I had some roasted corn that I added to some of the tamales.  This is totally optional but I for one love the taste of roasted corn with pork and green chile.

And we added a layer of cheese, again totally optional.  I would suggest any mexican white melting cheese.

Fold the two sides together so that they overlap.

Fold the bottom and top sides and tie off with some torn corn husk strips.

So far so good, getting a good rhythm going.

We set up our steamer pot with water in the bottom and placed some soaked corn husks over the insert.  This was a tip from Diana Kennedy’s “My Mexican Kitchen” cookbook.

Stack them upright like this.

We were able to get approximately 24 – 25 tamales in to steam.  The amount of pork and verde salsa made approximately 50 tamales.  Place the lid on the steamer and steam for approximately 50 – 55 minutes. Leave a little wiggle room as they will expand as they steam.

I was not sure how long it would take as many recipes quoted anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.  We found that about 50 – 55 minutes was about perfect for the masa to be soft and easily pull away from the corn husk. We had about 2 cups remaining of the verde sauce and served over these tamales.

After we went through the pork mixture we still had a little masa left over and filled 8 tamales with Hatch green chile, roasted corn, cheese and verde salsa.  I just unrolled this one and couldn’t resist a bite!

We froze most of the tamales for an hour then vacuum sealed them to place back in the freezer.  The tamales can be reheated straight from the freezer to steam 25 minutes or thawed about 3 – 4  minutes.  If you prefer they can be microwaved when thawed for about 1 minute.

Pork Tamales with Verde Salsa


2 3/4 pound Pork Roast
1 14.5 ounce can Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper
2 cups Verde Salsa
1 pound White Mexican Cheese, grated (optional)
Roasted Sweet Corn, optional

Verde Salsa

4 large Tomatillos
1 large Red Onion, quartered
4 cloves Garlic
2 Jalapeno Peppers
1 Poblano Chile
4 Hatch Green Chiles
1/4 cup fresh Lime Juice
1 tablespoon Honey
1/3 cup Fresh Cilantro
Salt to taste

Tamale Dough  (*Note:  the ingredients listed for the Tamale Dough represents 2 batches.  For easier prep make half of the recipe at a time)

2 cups Lard
8 cups Masa Harina (use Tamale flour, not Tortilla flour)
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Salt
6 cups Chicken Stock, (strained stock may be used from cooked pork roast)

Over the open flame of a gas grill, arrange tomatillos, chiles, onions and garlic on a grill plate to place on grill.  Rotate chiles and tomatillos often to char skin on all sides.  Remove to a plastic bag and let steam for 15 – 20 minutes.  Garlic will soften and onion pieces will begin to separate.  Remove garlic and cook the onions pieces until soft and slightly charred.  Run chiles under running water to remove skin.  Remove stems, seeds and core tomatillos.

Place all chiles, onions, garlic, tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice and honey into a blender and puree.  If blender should clog, take a spatula and run along edges to move it along.  Puree until you have a slightly chunky consistency.  Salt to taste.

Heat a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, drizzle with olive oil, season pork roast with salt and pepper to brown on all sides.  Place roast in dutch oven or slow cooker, pour 4 cups of stock in with the roast and bring to a simmer.  Simmer over medium low heat for 4 – 5 hours, turning the roast every 2 hours.  **Note, you may cook the roast for 8 hours on a low simmer or overnight. When done the roast should appear tender and start to easily pull apart.

Let the meat cool slightly, remove to a separate pan or bowl and begin to shred the pork with 2 forks.  Add 2 cups of the Verde Salsa to the shredded pork.  Strain the stock to use in the tamale dough or save for another use.

To make tamale dough, beat lard on medium speed of a mixer in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine masa harina, baking powder and salt.  Alternately add masa harina mixture and broth to shortening, beating well after each addition.  Add just enough broth to make a thick cookie dough like texture.  **Note, we made 2 batches of tamale dough, cutting the recipe in half.  Half the dough used about half the pork mixture and enabled us to steam 1 batch of tamales while preparing the next batch.

Soak corn husks in warm water for approximately 20 minutes, rinse to remove any corn silk, drain and pat dry.

To assemble tamales you will need to judge the size of your corn husks and spread anywhere from 2 – 4 tablespoons of tamale dough on the center of the corn husk.  First take the tamale dough and roll into a ball.  Begin pressing with your fingers to spread the dough outward 1/8 inch thick leaving about 1/2 inch clear on each side.  Leave about 2 inches at the top and bottom if folding both ends.  **Note:  if the dough becomes sticky to work with, dip fingers in a bowl filled with cool water.

Place about 2 tablespoons of the pork filling in the center of the masa.  Top with grated cheese or roasted corn kernels if desired. Roll the two sides together so that they overlap.  Fold the bottom husk up first, then the top.  Secure tamale by using small strips of corn husk to tie the ends.  Place water in the bottom of a steam pot and bring to a low boil.  Place a few husks over the steam rack and stack tamales upright making sure not to pack them too tightly as the masa will expand as they steam.  Cover with lid and steam 50 – 55 minutes or until masa easily pulls away from the wrapper.  Let cool slightly before serving with additional Verde Salsa.

Prepare tamales in freezer bags or vacuum seal to place in freezer for up to 6 month’s.  To reheat, steam frozen tamales 25 minutes or thawed 3 – 4 minutes.  Or microwave thawed for 1 minute.

Makes approximately 50 tamales