That’s right; I made tamales. After many evenings of preparation, which you can read about in my post here, I was ready to spread masa and steam my tamales. Essentially, tamales are made by spreading masa on corn husks, and then wrapping and steaming them.
Corn husks, or hojas as my mother-in-law calls them, hold everything together. Hojas is Spanish for leaves, petals, or blades, as in the blade of a knife. I like to think of the corn husks as the petals of the maize plant, but unlike most plants, these petals are not so delicate.
I also like to think about how tamales are analogous to maize. Not just conceptually, not just because they come from the same plant, but visually analogous. The hojas surround and protect the masa, just as the petals protect the ear of corn.
The masa is made from hominy, or corn kernels that have been subjected to a process called nixtamalization. The nixtamalization process involves soaking the kernels in a lye or limewater solution. This process removes toxins, makes the grain easier to grind, improves the flavor of the grain and has many nutritional and other benefits.
Maybe one day I’ll grind my own hominy–maybe I’ll even grow my own corn–but for my first time making tamales we purchased masa preparada. Finally, we assemble the tamales. Assembling the tamales is a time-consuming endeavor, but well worth it, if you ask me, especially when you have the help of friends and family.
In addition to red chile and pork tamales, we also made green chile and cheese tamales. The pork was locally-sourced and humanely-raised and the chiles were fresh, not canned, Anaheim chiles.
We made about 10 dozen tamales to share with our family and friends, and I’m already thinking about other types of fillings. Chicken mole? Black beans and veggies? I’m getting hungry!