Making tamales at Christmastime is a Hispanic family tradition. It’s a long and involved process, so it makes for a great bonding experience for family and friends. This year a friend from church invited some of us to make tamales with her, and I thought it would be fun to learn how to make them and spend time with friends while doing it!
A few weeks before we got together, Lisa began texting us the steps for tamale-making. First, we each bought a boneless beef roast and cooked it in the crockpot with garlic and salt. The beef was shredded and put in the freezer, along with the beef broth.
The next step was making the chili sauce. I’m so glad my friend Jen and I teamed up to do this step together. It was a lot of work! We took the stems off the chilies (while wearing gloves since the chilies are so spicy) and emptied them of all the seeds. Then the chilies were boiled and blended with garlic, salt, and the water we boiled the chilies in to make the chili sauce. Making the sauce took us several hours, but we had a great time listening to Christmas music and watching White Christmas while we worked.
After gathering all our supplies (corn husks, olives, lard, chili powder, masa) six of us met at Lisa’s house on Thursday night to make the tamales together. Lisa had bought prepared masa (corn dough), and we mixed lard, beef broth, chili powder, and salt into the masa with our hands.
To prepare the corn husks, we rinsed them off and then let them soak for a bit in order to soften them.
- Lay the corn husk on the plate–rough side up.
- Dip the spoon in water and then spread about 1/2 cup masa on the corn husk.
- Add about 1/4 cup beef and chili mixture to the center of the corn husk.
- Top it with one olive (I’m told people often add two olives to one of the tamales, and the person who gets the tamale with two olives gets a prize!).
- Fold the corn husk lengthwise and then push the insides up towards the wide end with your hand. Fold the small end up to close the tamale.
- Wrap the tamale in deli wax paper and store standing on end.
The next day, I steamed my tamales (which took about three hours). They were yummy! Now I have a lot of tamales to share with friends. Merry Christmas from Phoenix!