It’s Christmastime in South Texas, and for many of us, that means tamale time. While tamales are available year round at some restaurants and stores, many people prefer to make their own during this time of the year. My family has been making them for decades, but for the past 3 years we have begun making them together, and let me tell you, we have a fantastic time!
Tamales are a Mexican delicacy that were created by mí gente of the past: the Mesoamericans, or los Indios. They are a scrumptious food made with soft corn masa on the outside, filled with pretty much anything you can think of on the inside, and wrapped in corn husks for steaming. My family typically makes pork, chicken, and bean & cheese tamales.
My mom has hosted the tamale-making, or tamalada, at her house for the last three years. My grandmother used to host them back in the day, and we thought it would be nice to bring back the tradition and have the whole family together like we used to. We have a large family, so it’s rare when we’re all together. This year, we had matching t-shirts made. We also had a table with photos of our loved ones who are no longer with us, and who we miss every day.
Tamale making is daunting, y’all. So much work goes into the whole process of mixing, cooking, spreading, filling, wrapping, and steaming. It literally takes all day to make them. We started around 9 in the morning and they were still steaming the last dozens at 11 at night when I left. That’s almost 15 hours from start to finish!
This year, everyone pitched in to bring goodies and the tamale ingredients. My tias brought pork roasts cooked and ready to season with chilés, my tio brought hojas, or corn husks, y los primos brought all the snacks and drinks. My mom made chicken, and beans and also got the masa. Mom and I ended up going to three HEB grocery stores to find the specific masa we were looking for, because they didn’t have enough. If you know anything about HEB, you know they are always busy, busy, busy. If that isn’t dedication, I’m not sure what is! Maybe next year we will hit up a local molino, or mill, instead to get the amount of masa we need.
Last year, we didn’t make enough tamales and some cousins didn’t get to take any home, but that wasn’t going to happen again, because I took notes. We thought it would be smart to write down our recipe and keep track of how many we make so we know how much ingredients we need to make the amount we want.
I had some hot Cheetos with lime at the table with me while filling the bean tamales, so we thought why not try them crushed up in the bean tamales? Wouldn’t you know, they turned out pretty yummy, as did the other tamales, pero I’m biased as a hot Cheetos with lime fan.
When it was all said and done, we had around 88 dozens. So yeah, that’s how big my family is. We had about 20-30 family members helping with it all. It was the best time and we all took a ton of photos y snapchats. Being with family is always a joyous time, I love learning from my family members, and I know we will have many more years of amazing tamaladas.
Here’s what I learned this year:
- 1 pound of masa = 1 dozen tamales
- You can never have too many tamales
- Have an assembly line so the hojas don’t get dry & tough – I was too slow since it was my first time filling, and once the masa is spread on the hojas, it’s time to fill them. If you’re not fast enough the corn husks get dry & tough.
- Always have plenty of alcohol and snacks on hand.