Traditionally, tamales were always made in the fall when families all over the valley were doing their butchering, which usually happened after the second hard frost. There was plenty of fresh lard and red chiles, used not only as a tenderizer, but also as a preservative.
Set aside and frozen for feast days, the tamale is a perfect little package of flavor and is considered one of the most traditional for families to hand down their own special touches.
Modern variations include fresh corn, and chicken or turkey. Pork is traditional here in Northern New Mexico. In California there is even a sweet version of the recipe, which includes raisins, dates, nuts, honey, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon spices.
4 pounds lean pork
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, mined
4 Tablespoons ground red chile
2 teaspoons chile pequin
1 Tablespoons Chile Caribe
2 cup broth
1 pound cornhusks
6 cups masa harina
Simmer the meat with the salt in the water until well done. Remove the meat and shred into small pieces. Reserve the stock. Dissolve the three varieties of chile in two cups stocks and add to the meat along with the oregano and garlic. Cook until the liquid is almost absorbed.
Prepare the six cups of masa harina as directed on the package using the rest of the meat stock. Wash and trim the cornhusks at both ends. They should be about four inches wide and seven inches long. Soak them in warm water at least an hour or until soft and pliable. When ready, shake the water off the husks.
Spread about two Tablespoons of the masa dough ¼” thick and four inches square in the middle of the husk. Put a heaping Tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dough.
Fold over to seal in the filling, beginning with sides of the husk toward the center. Then fold up the bottom and close the top.
Tie with string or strands of husk. Stack the tamales loosely on a rack in a large steamer or covered roasting pan. Steam over boiling water for at least an hour or until the tamales loosen off the husk. To test, remove one gently using a mitt or tongs. If the dough comes away cleanly, the tamales are done. Delicious when served with Chile Colorado (page ???)
Makes 5-6 dozen