Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tamale Tradition for Christmas

You start with this. Garlic, lots of Garlic!

Then you do this. A Garlic shake you ask? Well, sort of, but keep reading and you will see.

Something with a little more color gets blended in. What kind of shake is this?

Ok, so a huge rectangular pan with that red shake in it. Hmmmm, what could all this mean?

A random hand shredding meat? Looks like a little of beef and a little of pork.

Ohhhh, so that's what the red garlicky mixture is for. It's for the beef and pork to swim in and blend and gather the flavors of each other and the garlic. Great idea!

Another random hand with a spoon (my mother's beautiful hands). And another big bowl. This one looks like a big lump of some kind of dough (masa) and spoonfuls of some white, creamy stuff. Whipped cream? Nope...Manteca (Lard)

Ah Ha! Now the random hands have faces. My sister Lisa and my mom. Looks like we're adding salt to the mixture.

A pretty picture with my pretty Christmas Tree in the background and my pretty sister and mom in the foreground. Looks like Mom is adding some spiciness to the mixture, some red chili powder. Wonder where she's going with this mixture. Not brownies, that's for sure!

Ok, some more creamy white stuff. You don't see this cook using measuring cups and spoons. No sirree, this is all years and years of experience you see here.

Another pair of random hands mixing this all up. This seems to be a very hands on group of cooks!

So now we're taking the left over broth the meat was cooked in and adding it to the mix. Yikes!

And Lisa says, "I'm done". Mom holds up the arms of the champion helper.

But where am I? Well I was hoping being the official photographer would keep me from having to lend a hand, but alas...we all have to take our turn. Do I look happy to have my hands in this ooey, gooey mixture?

Back to the meat mixture on the stove. Mmmmm, ok, so now the flavors and the colors have blended. Could we be close to seeing what all this work is going to produce?

I tell you, I could just eat this whole thing with a spoon. Someone STOP ME!

Is this it? Is this the finished product? No...can't be. Why that's just a big bowl of dough (masa) and a bowl of black olives and some of the beef/pork red chili mixture. So what do we do with this now?

Little sister Lisa seems to be experienced in what to use these items for. I see she has a corn husk in the left hand and she's smoothing some of the masa onto it with a spoon.

And Voila! The finished product. A red chili beef/pork/black olive T.A.M.A.L.E. That spells delicious Christmas food to me!

Lisa is GOOD! She's got quite the assembly line going. Good thing they have an official photographer :-)

All lined up and ready for a steamy bath.

There's an art to packing Tamales in the Tamale Pot. The Tamales don't get boiled or baked...they get steamed. I get steamed sometimes too, but that's a whole different story!

See that thing with the holes in it? That sits up on a little ledge formed into the pot which lets the tamales sit about 2 or 3 inches above the boiling water that gently steams them until they're cooked. Ingenious!

And this...this lovely, delicious, perfect item is what comes of all this work. The perfect Tamale.
The Christmas Tamale. Oh yes, other's may have their perfect Christmas Ham/Duck/Turkey/Pot Roast/Tuna Sandwich...whatever. But to our family there is nothing like the Christmas Tamale.

Was it worth it ladies? Ladies? LADIES!!! Ok, see...they aren't listening. They are way too busy just enjoying their tamales.

And the brains behind this operation? Yep, mom. She's been making tamales for Christmas as long as I can remember. And every year she says, "Next year we aren't making Tamales, it's too much work". And every year right after Thanksgiving Dinner she's asking, "So when are we getting together to make Tamales?"

Thank you mom. Long after Lisa has gone home and the official photographer has drifted off to go blog, you continue on. Packing the next batch of Tamales and the next and the next. Enough so that each of your kids and grand-kids has enough to eat at Christmas and enough to take home to enjoy throughout the rest of the holiday. We love you mom. Thank you for always having the strength and the love to make our Christmas Tamale dreams come true.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I know it was long, with lots of pictures but Tamale making is not for the feint of heart. It's a longgggggggg drawn out process. I'm linking up to Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday.


  1. It looks like you had a great time and I bet they were tasty.

  2. I always wondered how to make this. The step by step is valuable to scardy cats like myself. Oh, it looks great! I'm going to try it.

  3. I can see there is a real art to those wonderful tamales that I love and with your mom and sister they have put a lot of love into your tradition. Wish I could join you in eating them! Nice post.

  4. Thank you for the pictorial. I might have to try making Tamales. I would have a very happy husband and son if I did.

  5. That was beautiful. Next year I am joining u guys:)
    It is nice to know what Manteca means too!:)

  6. It was so nice to get to know you better and meet your family. The tamales look absolutely delicious and your pictures made it so much easier for we novices to understand what is involved in making them. I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Blessings...Mary

  7. My goodness, I've never made tamales but respect all the work that goes into making them!

    You and your mom look so much alike awww :D

  8. Christmas I prefer your version.

  9. Jeanette - We did have a good time. It was fun to cook together.

  10. Mama Thompson - Lol. I have a sister in law who was trained by my mom that makes tamales to order, but it's way too much work for me to even consider.

  11. Michael Lee West - If anyone can do it would be you. You should definitely give it a try.

  12. honeysuckle - They are like a work of art aren't they? I would love to have you come over next Christmas and share some with us!

  13. Thibeault's Table - We certainly had a lot of happy husband's and sons around here. They love them.

  14. Braley Mama - You can't live long in California and not know what Manteca C'mon over next year and we'll put you to work!

  15. Mary - It was so nice to have you come by and get to know some of my family. I love taking pictures and sharing so I'm glad you enjoyed them.

  16. Anny - Thank you for the compliment. I just wish I was tall and slender like my mom.

  17. Oddyoddyo13 - Well thank you for coming by and commenting. I'm so glad you like our version of Christmas food. How can you not like a tamale right?

  18. They look so yummie! Something I have never tried to do. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful family tradition ;)

  19. This was positively FABULOUS! You had me giggling as I'd follow along...between the photos and the cute little descriptions underneath.

    Wonderful post, sweetie! Thanks to Mom and Lisa for helping to make me DROOL!

  20. OMG I knew what you were doing right away, Alicia!!! I haven't had a tamale since I was in New Mexico a few years back. Homemade, but no olives. I am used to seeing them tied on both ends - maybe it's a northern NM thing! They are a specialty item- everyone did them for Christmas or a festive event since they are so time consuming.
    Sorry I haven't been by lately. The last 2 weeks have been pretty occupying in our household= the hubs is in the hospital. Hope all is well with you- you sure made me homesick for tamales!
    :-) Sue


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