Yvette Jemison’s childhood Christmas memories revolve around tamaladas, tamale-making parties, hosted by her grandmother and her Tía Odilia, in which the family got together assembly line-style to make enough tamales for everyone to enjoy in the coming year. She continues in their footsteps by hosting her own yearly tamale-making parties with friends and family. This pork tamale recipe is a culinary delight with savory flavors and a medley of spices. Whether enjoyed on their own or accompanied by traditional toppings like salsa and guacamole, these tamales offer a symphony of flavors.

Tía Odilia’s Tips for Working with Masa

Masa is delicate and spoils easily at room temperature, so follow these tips to keep it fresh during the tamale-making process.

  1. Keep masa frozen up to 3 months until ready to use, then refrigerate 24 to 48 hours in advance to defrost. Bring to room temperature and immediately season.
  1. After seasoning masa, divide it among two pans, cover, and refrigerate to chill the filling.
  2. When ready to assemble tamales, remove one pan at a time and let sit at room temperature to soften for no more than 30 minutes, keeping the rest refrigerated.

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Makes 5 dozen Tamales

    Relleno De Cerdo Para Tamales (Pork Tamale Filling)
  • 7½ pounds bone-in Boston butt pork roast
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 16 garlic cloves, divided
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Masa Para Tamales (Tamale Dough)
  • 2½ pounds lard, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 pounds fresh ground corn masa, divided, at room temperature

Make the Relleno De Cerdo Para Tamales (Pork Tamale Filling)

  1. Place pork, onion, and 6 whole garlic cloves in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer, skimming off any foam during the first 30 minutes. Simmer until meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bone, 3½ to 4 hours. Check pot from time to time, adding water to keep roast covered as necessary.
  2. With a slotted spoon, remove roast, onion, garlic, and any bits of fat cap. Set aside to cool on a large plate. Skim and reserve 2 cups broth from stockpot. Freeze remainder for a later use.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When meat is cool enough to handle, shred with two forks, and then transfer to a cutting board. Finely chop shredded meat with a large knife. Chop onion, whole garlic, and about 1 cup fat cap, or as much as you like.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, stir chopped meat, onion, garlic, and fat cap until well blended. Mince remaining 10 garlic cloves and add to meat along with chili powder, cumin, pepper, and salt; mix until well combined. Add 2 cups reserved broth and mix well.
  5. Add meat mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish and place in oven to bake until fragrant and the top begins to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow meat to cool before using as a filling for tamales, or store in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freezer for up to 1 month.

Make the Masa Para Tamales (Tamale Dough)

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat lard on medium-high until light and aerated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add chili powder and salt, and mix well to combine.
  3. Add 2½ pounds masa and mix on medium until well blended. Stop mixer and scrape down sides. Add remaining masa and mix until totally blended.
  4. Divide seasoned masa into two pans, tightly cover with foil, and refrigerate until ready to assemble tamales. (Seasoned masa can also be divided among gallon-size freezer bags and frozen up to two weeks. Thaw bags 24 to 48 hours prior to assembly.)

Assemble the Tamales

  1. Prepare the corn husks: Separate larger husks from smaller, discarding any silks or debris. In an extra-large bowl, stock pot, or sink filled with hot water, soak all husks at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Be sure to weigh down husks with a plate or other heavy object to keep submerged.
  2. Line a work surface with dishtowels. Swirl husks in water to remove any silks or debris. Working in batches, remove 12 husks, drain and shake off excess water, and spread onto dishtowels and pat dry.
  3. Choosing a larger husk, open on work surface and measure about 6 inches across the wide end. Tear off excess. Measure about 8 inches from the wide end to the point end, and cut off excess along the point end.
  4. Return trimmed husks to water and trim remaining larger husks, keeping smaller husks as is for patching.
  5. Assemble the tamales: Remove one pan of masa from refrigerator and let sit until softened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Place large trimmed corn husk rough side down, smooth side up, so that the widest end is closest to you. Spoon 2 tablespoons masa in center of husk. Using a spatula, spread masa in a thin even layer toward the wide end, all the way to the left and right edges.
  7. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of chilled pork filling on top of masa along left edge of husk, forming a log. Fold long husk edge over filling and roll toward the opposite edge.
  8. With seam side up, fold narrow tail end of husk under and stack rolled husk tail side down. Repeat with remaining ingredients until all corn husks are filled.
  9. Steam the tamales: In a deep pot with a removable steamer insert, place an upside-down mug or large piece of foil crumpled into a 3-inch ball in the center. Fill with water to just under the level of the steamer basket. Prop tamales around this center support with the open end up, folded end down and facing center.
  10. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a gentle boil over medium or medium-high heat. Steam until masa is firm and easily peels away from husk, about 30 to 40 minutes. To test for doneness, remove a tamale after 30 minutes and allow to cool 3 minutes; husk should easily peel away from masa, which should be firm. If masa sticks to husk, close tamale and return to steam for a little longer.
  11. When test tamale is done, remove entire pot from heat and allow to sit uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes. Unwrap tamale, discard husk, and enjoy with salsa for dipping. (Or cool and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days before serving.)
To store tamales: Wrap 1 dozen uncooked or steamed and cooled tamales in foil, place in a zip-top freezer bag, and freeze up to 6 months.

  • Recipe by
    Yvette Jemison

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Comments 2

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Be the first to comment.

    February 24, 2024 at 7:53 am

    How many tamales does this make ?


    1. Amber Chase
      February 26, 2024 at 7:43 am

      Hi Juli,

      This will make 5 dozen Tamales!


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