Just like the old-fashioned recipes for chicken soup that start out “First, kill a chicken”, at Seven Trees we like our recipe ingredients right from the source.
One challenge we wanted to attempt was making tamales with homegrown ingredients, and with last year’s harvest of Painted Mountain field corn, we had all the building blocks. We don’t really use a recipe for tamales, but there are some guidelines and ideas here. All tamales start out with masa, a wet dough made from nixtamalized corn, lard, salt, and usually water or broth. Nixtamalization is the process of soaking dried corn in a solution of calcium hydroxide which removes the outer skin of the kernels, and also increases the nutritional value. (A local grocery store sells small bags of ‘pickling lime’, but it’s also available at mexican grocery stores and online.)
The corn, lard, salt & chicken broth (yes we did ‘first, kill a chicken’) get mixed into a wet dough, about the consistency of peanut butter, and spread onto soaked corn husks. We made a filling from smoked pork roast that was then slow-cooked with pickled jalapenos (also homegrown). The meat was shredded with homegrown fire-roasted Poblano peppers and deployed on top of the masa.
The tamales are rolled in the corn husk, ends folded over and tied with strips of husk, and then steamed for about 2 hours. The lard vaporizes into the dough, flavoring and tenderizing it. There are all kinds of ways to enjoy finished tamales, but we were in a hurry to try the fruits of our labors, so a storebought sauce did the trick. Pig, corn, chicken, peppers. We’re already working on more ingredients for another batch of these heavenly treats. Defintely not a quick weeknight supper, but something we’ll do on a regular basis, as a way to really get the most from what Seven Trees can provide.