Learned something new today! Tues, 12/16/14

Aha!  The signboard in Alice's kitchen tells it all.  Jimmy and I knew this was coming; we've been looking forward to it all year!  Our in-laws, Alice and Tom, make tamales every December, and this year Jimmy and I have been included ... er, wait ... I mean, we've been RECRUITED!  The date was planned, and not only would we be helping, the younger set -- Matt and Jen -- would join us.  

Jimmy and I left Nevada City (in the rain) @ 8am to be in Roseville by 9am to begin.  We would be eager learners. Matt and Jen, who now live a short distance away in Sacramento, followed a bit later.

Alice ordered 20 lbs of pre-made masa, above left, in two plastic sacks.  Above right, she squeezes it into two large broiler pans (while Jimmy grabs an empanada).  Below left, is one of two crockpots filled with 20 lbs of pork butt cooked overnite and ready to be shredded.  Below right you see the pork now shredded into two large pans.  OK, let the fun begin!

 Alice ladled some of the cooked pork liquid (sans fat), and chili powder, into the masa, and said, "knead it in!" 

 And so we did, but not without some foolishness mixed in!  ("Don't play with your food!")

All six of us hard at work!   First, lay out a corn husk, apply a thin layer of masa atop, spread a handful of pork longways on one side, roll it up and fold over the top edge.  I didn't take blow-by-blow photos because I couldn't -- my hands were goopied up!  Matt and Jen have the monster pan of masa in front of them, plus a glass dish half emptied of pork. Catchy Christmas music played on the BOSE.  Good thing Alice covered the table with a blue plastic throwaway, 'cause we made a mess!  The chairs were covered with towels to protect them.

Tom escaped for a while w/ a previous app't, but he brought back sandwiches for lunch, so he was "forgiven."  

The sun came out for a little while in Roseville, lifting everyone's spirits, if only for the moment.  Alice and I walked out into her back patio to admire her cactus ... and we enjoyed feeling the warm sun.  We were pretty sure the plants welcomed the rain break, too!

The humongous masa pan, scraped clean.  The other followed shortly thereafter.  Our tamales went into two large steamers, to cook (steam) for approx one-and-a-half hours.

We asked Alice to pose with PART of the final product, already steamed, cooling and almost ready to divvy into freezer bags.

It was an all-day job.  Tamales, in batches, steamed away on the stove top.  After finishing the traditional tamales, Matt made up two small separate kinds of tamales to try something different.  We didn't get to taste any of his special tamales, as we wanted to get home before dark and before the next wave of predicted rain hit.  We left around 3pm, made a brief stop at Wal-Mart, and got home at 5pm, just at dark.  The rain began falling again (!!) a short time later.

The traditional tamales we all helped make are -- in one word -- delicious!  We not only learned the basics on how to make them, we had a wonderful day, filled with laughter and family camaraderie.  Matt had never made this Mexican staple before, either, and Jen hadn't participated in tamale making for years, so they both appreciated the Tamale 101 today, too.

And, everyone took freezer bags of tamales home.  After all, we made 20 DOZEN TAMALES, plenty for sharing!. Wowzers, I guess so!  Thank you, Alice and Tom, for EVERYTHING!

ps:  Man, we were tired when we got home!


  1. I really appreciate this post, as I have never tasted a tamale and had no idea what they were made of. There's also a tamale festival near Yuma on Saturday that I'm planning to attend. Now I know what to expect to eat. I assume you don't eat the corn husk?

    1. Yup, the corn husk (wrapping) is discarded. Hope the tamales served in Yuma are as good as the ones we made! :- )

  2. YUM! Save a couple in your freezer for me, yes? :)

  3. Anonymous4:17 PM

    holy hot tamale

    1. Thank you, GR. Wish you and Anne were here to enjoy some with us!


We love hearing from you -- please leave us a note! (Comment moderation is turned on, and your comments, including anonymous comments, will be visible after they have been reviewed and published.)