By Graciela Gonzalez, Human Services Director at El Centro de La Raza Makes 12 dozen

The Husks The Sauce

3 packages dried Corn Husks Hot Water

The best husks to use are labeled “En Concha” (or “shelled” in Spanish). These husks have not only been sorted for size, but also cleaned of their corn silk. Soak in HOT water for at least 1 hour before use. Be sure to soak extra husks for lining the steamer when cooking the tamales. If the dried husks you have available are not cleaned, be sure to remove the corn silk before use.

8 oz dried California chiles 8 oz dried Pasilla chiles 4 cups water

Seed and stem the chiles. Be sure to wear gloves and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Place the cleaned chiles and water in a saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until soft. In a blender or food processor, add ½ cup of the chile water and half the chiles. Belnd for 1 minute or until very smooth. Blend the remaining liquid and chiles and until smooth. Set aside 1-2 cups for the masa (depending on how hot you like your masa). The remainder will be used for the pork.

The Masa
6.5 lbs dried Maseca Tamale corn flour, or 1-1/2 bags 5 quarts broth and/or water 5-6 cups melted Lard or Vegetable oil 1-2 cups Chile paste

The Meat
5 Heads of Garlic ¼ tsp ground Cumin ¼ c Salt – more or less to taste 10 lb Pork Shoulder, cut into three pieces

In a large mixing bowl, add the dried corn flour and make a well in the center. Add the liquid, one cup at a time and combine with the masa flour. The masa should be moist and the consistency of spackle. Mix in the chile paste. Mix in 3 cups of fat into the masa, mix, and add 1 more cup of fat. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Continue mixing until chile is well combined and masa no longer sticks to your hands. If it’s still sticky, add more fat and mix well. Cover and set aside until ready for use.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients and simmer on medium low heat for 2 hours, or until pork is fork tender and shreds easily. Set aside to cool. Shred the meat with two forks when cool enough to handle. Remove garlic heads from liquid and reserve for the tamale masa. Add the chile sauce/paste to your taste. Add more liquid if mixture seems dry. Cover and set aside until ready for use.

Assembly and Cooking
The husks want to roll with the smooth side. Generally, we want to avoid the ribbed side as the tamales will not peel as easily when cooked. Take a rehydrated corn husk and look for the smooth side. Spread 1 tablespoon of masa over the top ½ of the husk, all the way across horizontally. You can use a spoon, a spatula or your hands, whatever is easiest. Place 1 tablespoon of meat in the center of the masa. Fold into thirds, like a letter. Fold the bottom tail piece over the tamale, across the seam side. Squeeze to seal the top. You can add this extra mix back into the masa. Set your tamale aside and continue assembling the rest of them (invite some friends to make it go faster). If you don’t have a tamale steamer, take a large stock pot and place a metal bowl or other heatproof container in the middle. Line the bottom of the pot with corn husk scraps to cover the bottom (under the container too). Begin placing your tamales, open side up, around the container to building a pyramid. Once all your tamales are in, add 3-4 inches of water or broth. Cover with a ½” layer of more corn husks and a damp kitchen towel, tucking in the extra cloth around the edge. Cover with lid and place over medium heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Make sure the pot does not dry out by keeping extra hot water on the side. Test for doneness by taking one out of the pot and gently unrolling. If it comes off clean from the husk, it’s done. If it sticks a little, set aside to cool for 5 minutes. If it tastes uncooked, steam for another 20 minutes. Enjoy!