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Tamales: A Festive Holiday Tradition

Love is the spice of life and at Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), we saw that love shine through as our executive chef, Manuel Vasquez (aka “Chef Manny”) invited his mom, sister and various other relatives to join him in the TAFB Community Kitchen for the annual tamale-making demonstration day. The smells of deliciousness wafted through the kitchen as the family joined forces to teach 12 chefs-in-training how to make this holiday classic.

Forty pounds of masa and 55 dozen tamales later, the students are now experts–and we want you to be too. So with the permission Connie Vasquez, Chef Manny’s mom, we present you with her special tamale recipe and hope that you’ll attempt this delicious dish by joining your friends and family together too. Enjoy!

From the kitchen of Connie Vasquez:

Tamales (recipe makes 10 pounds)
Ingredients
  • 10 pounds masa (Ibarras Masa)
  • 15 pounds Boston Butt (pork)
  • 5 pounds pure lard (Armour)
  • 3 packages of corn husks
  • 1 pound Original Chile Blend (Pendery’s)
  • 1/2 pound paprika
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cumin (ground)
  • 1 cup garlic (granulated)
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup salt (or to taste)
  • 15 aluminum sheets/heavy duty 24-inch or 2 quart freezer bags
Meat

One day before serving, boil meat with salt, cumin, garlic cloves and bay leaves. Cool meat in the refrigerator.

Clean husks and place in a plastic bag.

The next day, skim fat from the meat, shred meat and heat liquid “soup” mixture (this is the stock made from boiling the meat). Put skimmed fat and some pure lard in a pan, add 3/4 of the package of chili blend, 1/2 of the paprika and stir. Add 1 cup of flour and stir. If you need more lard, add as needed. When the mixture looks like a paste, start adding in the soup and stir. It should look like a rue. Let it simmer and then add shredded meat. It should be thick, not too runny.

Masa

Crumble masa, add salt, baking powder, chili powder, paprika, hot lard, hot soup mix. Add more lard if needed. Mix until it is smooth and like like peanut butter. It should not stick to your hands. Let it set for approximately 30 minutes.

Husks

Take clean husks from the night before and put them into hot boiling water. Turn heat down and let them set until you’re ready to use. Pull from the water and drain. They should be soft and ready to spread masa on the smooth side.

Soup

Keep the soup on the stove and add water and chili powder for color until it’s ready to go into the pot to cook the tamales.

Pot for Tamales (porcelain or metal)

Cut holes in the bottom of a tin pie pan and place at the bottom of the pot. Add pieces of husks to the tin pan so tamales won’t stick. Take husks out of water and dry. Spread masa on smooth side of husks. Put meat in the middle and fold one side in and then the other and fold in half. Put tamales in pot in a “pyramid or teepee” fashion. When the pot is full, fill 1/2 way with the soup mixture and put them on the stove to cook, rotating every 15 minutes. Cook for approximately 1.5 hours or until husks come off easily from the masa.

Wrapping

Pull 12 tamales out of the pot and wrap in foil or put in a bag. If you use a bag, add a little soup from the pot.

Here’s a video of the tamale making in action. Enjoy your tamales with happy holiday wishes from everyone at Tarrant Area Food Bank!