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Tamale Grocery List

(post, Daniel Hernandez)

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A Grocery List by Daniel Hernandez
(Daniel is the owner of Chiles without Borders, an upcoming purveyor of salsas and totopos)

This is my tamale grocery list for our annual Tamale Fiesta.  We finally tried to document what we purchased so we weren’t guessing every year, like we’ve been doing the past few years, and my mom and dad still do, as long as I can remember.  So, this is for them too.

The grocery list makes enough tamales to feed Pancho Villa’s army.  We fed about 75 people at this year’s party and still had leftovers.  But, they were fairly small tamales that fit in our mid-sized Chinese tamalero (a dumpling steamer that we bought in Chinatown.  It works perfectly for making tamales). We have the mid-sized one because it can fit on the small 20” stove in our New York tenement-building apartment. My mom and dad have the large tamalero (also a Chinese dumpling steamer), but they have a standard 30” stove.  So, their tamales are little larger.

Southwestern tamales are typically smaller than the larger ones made in other parts of Latin America.  They are corn based – corn masa, with rich filling, and wrapped in cornhusks.  We enjoy fresh masa made by a couple in Queens, NY who grind their own corn in a molido they brought from Mexico, and mix it with milk and butter (you can get it with lard, as well).  They deliver right to our apartment.  My mom and dad also enjoy freshly made masa from a Mexican grocer in Santa Ana, CA. We stand in line during the holidays to buy the masa with other Mexican-Americans and local Mexicans who carry on the holiday tradition of making tamales every year.  Fresh corn masa is the best.

Anyway, I recommend making all of the tamale fillings the day before you’re going to make the tamales to let the flavors blend (make room in your refrigerator). And, mostly, to get some rest before the actual tamale making begins.

The Grocery List

20 pounds
(General rule of thumb: 1-pound masa makes 10 tamales, depending on the size of the tamale)

Tamales – Pork Filling
15 pounds pork shoulder	two 7-pound pork shoulders with the bone
Bay leaf			1 leaf for every two pounds
(Boil the pork in water with the bay leaf in a large pot.  The water level should be about an inch above the pork. Save all the fat after boiling the pork. Simply refrigerate the pork, meat, and fat together after boiling it. It will be all the fat you’ll need to flavor the meat and keep it moist. The bone is removed as you pull and shred the meat and fat.)

Mix into the pulled and shredded pork:
Orange juice		1 pint or 2 cups
Cumin seeds		5-6 tablespoons seeds roasted and ground
Oregano		1/3+ cup dried crushed 
Garlic			1.5-2 bulbs peeled and blended in food processor
White onion		1 large onion blended in a food processor
Yellow onion		1 medium onion blended in a food processor
Chile ancho		8 dried chiles rehydrated and blended in a food processor
Chile New Mexico	8 dried chiles rehydrated and blended in food processor
Salt			taste test

Tamales – Calabacita Filling
Zucchini		4 cut into small cubes
Yellow squash		4 cut into small cubes
Corn kernels		1 package (10-12 oz) frozen corn
Black beans		1 package (1 lb) cooked beans - drain liquid from beans
Chile Poblano		4 green chiles - remove seeds and chop
Note: Chile ancho is dried chile Poblano
Yellow onion		2 medium onions blended in a food processor
Garlic			1 bulb peeled and blended in food processor
Queso fresco		2 packages (12.5 oz) crumbled (prefer Los Altos brand)
An option is to add a 7 oz roll of goat cheese (queso de cabra) to the queso fresco. The goat cheese is very flavorful, which adds another dimension to the calabacita.
Salt			taste test

Pinto beans		2 bags dried beans (1lb bags)
Bay leaf		2 leaves
Epazote		1 tablespoon dried and crumbled
Cumin			2 teaspoons
Yellow onion		2 medium onions chopped and sautéed
Garlic			6 cloves chopped and sautéed
Salt			taste test

Long grain rice	2 cups toasted in pan
Bay leaf		1 leaf
Garlic			2 cloves chopped and sautéed
Leeks			1 leek chopped and sautéed - include the green parts
Coriander		1 teaspoon
Oregano		1 teaspoon
Vegetable broth 	2 cups
Water			2 cups
Tomato sauce		7.75 oz can (prefer El Pato Brand Mexican Hot Style Tomato Sauce)
Salt			taste test

Finally, note that the quantity of herbs, spices, and seasonings used above are approximate.  Use your taste buds to test flavors. Hone your own skills to develop the flavor of the tamale filling that you want to serve.

Daniel – Winter Holiday Season 2011