Signature Dish of Pam in Wisconsin

Pork Tamales

(Pam fiddles with this basic recipe)

4 - 5 lbs pork shoulder
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
5 guajillo chilies
8 ancho chilies
1/4-cup pork broth
7 cloves garlic
1/2 lb pork lard
1/2 tsp. whole pepper
1/2 tsp. whole comino
salt to taste

Masa (dough):

14.4 lb pkg masa (instant corn tortilla mix)
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. salt
2 1/2 lbs pork lard
7 1/2 cups pork broth
12 oz dried corn shucks (these must be soaked in water 1 - 2 hours before use)

To prepare the filling: Boil the pork shoulder in a large stock pot with the onion, garlic, bay leaves and salt. When it is well cooked (about 1 hour ofcooking time), remove the meat from the broth. Reserve broth for later use. Remove meat from the bones. Discard bones. With a meat grinder, grind the cooked pork. (If you don't havea meat grinder, mince the meat as finely as possible with a knife, or grind in a food processor.) To prepare the meat filling seasoning: Boil the chilies together until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the stems, and add chiles to the container of a blender. Add in the 1/2-cup pork broth and garlic, and puree well (add more broth if necessary to facilitate blending.) Strain puree through a wire strainer to extract any seeds. In a spice grinder or molcajete, grind pepper, garlic, and comino with some salt. Make sure the mixture is finely ground. Set aside. In a skillet, heat 1/2 lb lard. When melted, add the ground spice mixture and saute for 20 seconds. Add in chile puree, and saute for 2 minutes. Add in ground pork, combining well. Adjust seasonings. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Set aside.

To prepare the Masa: Pour the contents of the package of masa into a very large bowl (I use a metal turkey roaster pan). Add in the baking powder and salt. Knead the lard in with your hands. Add in the broth one cup at a time. You may need a bit more or less broth. The masa is ready when the dough no longer sticks to your hands, and is smooth and delicate to the touch.

To assemble the tamales: Dry off some of the soaked corn shucks and place a few within reach. To make a proper tamale, the corn shuck bottom edge should be around 8 inches wide. Discard those that are too narrow, and tear bits off of the ones that are too wide. Take a corn shuck, and spread the bottom 2/3rd of the leaf with 3-4 tablespoons of masa. Leave a 1-1/2 inch wide area along one edge free of masa. Spread the masa thinly. Place line of about 2 tablespoons of the filling, following the direction of the corn shuck veins, on the spread masa, towards the center of the prepared shuck. Fold the edge of the prepared shuck over the filling, then roll up towards the edge of the shuck with no masa. Fold down the top flap. Continue until all the tamales have been formed. Place tamales in a large steamer basket. Boil water in the bottom of the steamer pot. As a top layer, cover the tamales with extra corn shucks, then with a sheet of plastic wrap. Secure the lid of the steamer, using foil around the edges of the lid to prevent the escape of steam. Place the steamer over the boiling water. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes, until the masa is firm. Makes 16 dozen tamales.

Note: If you have leftover masa, you can make tamales out of refried beans instead of meat. Or concoct your own filling using leftover cooked chicken, beef, pork, or venison.

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