Traditional Pork Tamales
  • Cooking Time: 1-2 hrs
  • Servings: about 4 dozen
  • Preparation Time: 1-2 hrs
  • 5 lbs pork shoulder roast cut to manageable pieces
  • 5 lbs store bought prepared masa (mexican markets)
  • 1 package corn husks
  • 6-8 dried chile ancho
  • 6-8 dried New Mexican chile
  • 1 large white onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • large jar of small green olives (with or without pits) I like with pits
  • cumin to taste
  • salt to taste
  1. Preparing the Pork:
  2. Place pork, onion, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and salt in a pot of water to cover.
  3. Simmer uncovered for about 1.5 hours until meat is tender and wanting to shred.
  4. Place meat in colander to cool, shred, and place in a large skillet. Reserve the meat stock for the red sauce.
  5. Red Sauce:
  6. Remove all stems and seeds from the chilies.
  7. Place chilies in a pot of water, cover, bring to a boil, and remove from heat and let steep until soft.
  8. Place chilies in a blender leaving the water behind. Add the meat broth to about 3/4 of blender capacity and blend. Be careful blending hot items as they can erupt, burning you, and making a huge mess.
  9. Salt to taste.
  10. Add half of the red sauce to the meat in skillet.
  11. Simmer the meat for about 15 minutes until all of the meat has absorbed the sauce.
  12. Preparing the Masa:
  13. Place the masa in a large bowl and add the red sauce until the desired color and taste are achieved. Mix by hand. Do not add too much and make the masa to wet. It should however be quite sticky.
  14. Masa note: I do not like the dry masa you purchase in the baking isle of your local grocery store. This masa is ground too fine and has lost its corn flavor and texture. The prepared and refrigerated masa from the Mexican market is made from dry corn kernels soaked in a lime bath, rinsed, and ground in a stone mill on site. This leaves the great color, texture, and flavor of the corn. You can also do this same process at home the day before if you have the extra time and and a plate grinder.
  15. The lime mentioned above is not the fruit, but calcium oxide in a powder form. The Mexican markets refer to it as "Cal" and is usually where they make the corn tortillas.
  16. 1.5 lbs dry white corn in a bag
  17. 2 TBL lime
  18. 2 quarts water
  19. Boil the water and add the lime until disolved.
  20. Add the corn and boil for another 15 minutes.
  21. Remove from heat and allow to soak for an hour.
  22. Rinse the corn very well between your hands to remove any hulls until all of the corn is white. If not rinsed well your masa can have a bitter flavor.
  23. Assembly and cooking:
  24. The cornhusks need to be soaked in warm water to get them pliable to work with.
  25. Spread approximately 2 TBS masa on the upper wide end of the hush about a 1/8" thick.
  26. Add a few TBS meat and 1 olive to the center.
  27. Roll the tamale and fold the narrow tip up and place in a steamer basket with the open end facing up. I place my steamer basket on its side so it is easier to load and get them in all tight.
  28. When the basket is full, place basket over simmering water making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the tamales.
  29. Place a wet kitchen towel over the top of tamales prior to placing the lid and steam for about an hour.
  30. Eating:
  31. My favorite way to eat a tamale is with a fried egg over the top with some reserved red sauce as well.
  32. Enjoy!!
Growing up in Southern California, we always had someone in the family who made the best tamales. We had sweet tamales, chicken, beef, pork, and candy tamales. I was never really taught a specific way to make them, but over many years through trial and error, I believe this recipe to be quite good to share. In fact, I really do not even have it written down. It is all in my head like so many of my favorite recipes. Anyway, I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine does.