Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cast Iron Week #5: Real Tamales

Close to Thanksgiving last year a neighbor of ours brought over some wonderful tamales that she made from scratch.  They were amazing.  I've been thinking about making some ever since.  I had to buy masa for the tamale pie recipe and I had some pork shoulder so I thought I'd give it a try.


Masa (about a cup 1 1/2)
Dried corn husks (about 15-20)
2-3 lbs Pork shoulder
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
Dried red chiles (about 10)
Garlic powder


First, using your dutch oven place your pork shoulder on top of your trivet.  Add 3 cups of water, one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of salt.  Cover.  Set to simmer and allow to cook for several hours.  I cooked mine for a total of 3 hours and turned it once.

Meanwhile, take your dried red chilies, which you can get in your local Mexican food section, and using a coffee grinder or a spice grinder, grind everything but the stem.  Grind as many as you have to into a fine powder so you have enough to make 3 tablespoons of red chili powder.  I'm sure you could just buy chili powder, but this is the way I did and it was really flavorful.

After your pork is cooked turn off the heat, take the pork out and allow it to cool.  When it is cool, shred the pork.  Save the water from the dutch oven.

After your pork is shredded place it in a cast iron skillet.  Toss in the red chili powder, some salt if needed, and garlic powder to taste.  Cook the pork on medium heat for about 10 minutes, allowing it to brown a little bit more.  Meanwhile, take your masa and add, 1 tablespoon at a time, some of the water left over from cooking the pork.  Add enough to make a dough that isn't sticky but when squeezed holds it's shape.  Put to the side.  Then, fill a large bowl with hot water.  Place the corn husks in the hot water to soften up. 

When your corn husks are soft, your pork is cooked and your masa is ready you can start putting the tamales together.  To do this first take a corn husk and tear it into thin pieces about 1 cm wide.  These will act as ties.  Then take a plain corn husk and lay in flat.  Add about 1/4 cup of the masa dough to the center.  Top this with a tong full of pork.  Fold in the sides of the corn husks, then the top and bottom and tie the whole thing closed with the corn husk tie.  Repeat this until you have run out of masa and pork.

Place a steamer in your dutch oven.  Make sure there is enough of the cooked pork water left in the dutch oven so it will steam - if you don't have enough just add water.  Then, place all your tamales in the steamer.  Close your dutch oven.  Cook on low heat for about 1 hour. 

I realize this is a long recipe and it left me with a great appreciation for homemade tamales, but it is truly worth the effort.    


Lewie said...

The best tamales in the world

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Jo Castillo said...

Looks like they turned out great! Make my mouth water. :)