Story and Recipe collected by Giovanni Garcia, Summer 2017

There is nothing in this world that I cherish more than spending time with family. And not just my immediate family like my parents and siblings, but also my cousins, my aunts/uncles, and grandparents. One of the few times I get to see them all at one time and place, is the Christmas season. Because so many of my cousins are going off to college, finding work, and now, even starting their families of their own, I do not get to see them as often as before, so moments like these mean more to me than ever before. One tradition my family has, as well as many other Mexican families, is the making of tamales to eat on Christmas Eve/Day. The process begins with one of my aunts/uncles volunteering their home to be used for the preparation of the tamales, which alternates every year. This is followed by the gathering of ingredients a few days in advance (which I have attached below). And it’s not just one person’s responsibility to bring the ingredients, every family is in charge of getting a couple of things, making the process more of a group effort. And finally, we all gather on the 23rd of December to actually make the tamales. The aunts/uncles are usually the first ones up and prepare a couple of main ingredients at the house before the grandchildren get there. Basically, the parents get the complicated stuff done, and we help them with the more basic tasks including the spreading of the masa onto the corn husks, filling the tamales with meat/vegetables/etc, and any other directions we receive. The process is really stressful, especially for the adults. But at the end of the day, which is usually late at night, we have made hundreds of tamales. Some fond memories I have include anything relating to my grandmother, and particularly the year my uncle brought a mixing attachment to his construction drill. Before he had brought this, we used to mix the maza by hand, so when he brought the attachment not only were we all amazed, but the preparation process became much faster.


Ingredients (100 tamales):

-       Maza (dough) (5 lbs.)

-       Mantequa (lard) (1lb)

-       Chile quajillo (3lbs)

-       Salt (to the taste)

-       Corn husks (100)

-       Pork (5 lbs.)

-       Onion (1 – medium sized)

-       Garlic (2 clubs)

-       Cumin (2 teaspoons)




  1. Put the 100 leaves to soak in a bucket(s) of water. They should be submerged in water for at least 3 hours before using them  


  1. Cut the chiles open and remove the seeds from inside

  2. Fill a 8 quart pot ¾ of the way

  3. Boil the water

  4. Add the chiles

  5. Cook the chiles for about 10 minutes

  6. Take the pot off the stove and let it simmer on the side


  1. Cut the pork into small pieces, each about the size of a gumball

  2. Put the pork into a very large pot that can fit all the pieces

  3. Add two of water

  4. Cut the onion into a couple of pieces (4-6) and add them to the pot

  5. Also add salt (about a teaspoon), sprinkle this across the meat, reaching as much as possible

  6. Leave this to cook for about an hour and a half, if it takes a little longer or less, that is okay

Back to salsa:

  1. Put as many chiles as you can fit into a blender (With 3lbs should take around 4 times), have a strainer and a clean pot on the side

  2. Add half a tablespoon of the powdered cumin, and also half a club of garlic each time you fill the blender with chiles (this is assuming you use the blender 4 times, in total you should use 2 clubs of garlic and 2 tablespoons of cumin)

  3. Blend these ingredients.

  4. Dump the blended chiles into a strainer with a pot underneath and use a spoon to move the salsa around in the strainer/filter the good parts into the pot

  5. Put this pot on a stove with medium heat

  6. Add one and a half teaspoons of salt to the pot of salsa

  7. Leave this pot until the salsa starts boiling, might take around 30-45 minutes to cook

  8. Stir the salsa every 5 mins, and take a spoon and taste it, check if it needs more salt, if so, add little amounts until it fits your need

  9. Once the salsa is done cooking, put it on the side and let it cool

Mixing of Dough:

  1. In a large pot, add the corn dough and lard. Also add about 1 and a half tablespoons (more or less) of salt.

  2. Add 2 cups of warm water and start mixing the dough and lard. (if you find it difficult to mix, add more water)

  3. Mix until it has the texture of playdough

Making of tamales:

  1. Put the leaves into a strainer to let loose water drain out

  2. Now, spread the dough mixture onto the softest side of the corn husks, make sure to leave about two inches from the narrowest part of the husk, you will be folding this

  3. The layer of dough should be relatively thin but should cover the surface

  4. Now, add about 2 tablespoons of salsa to the middle of the husk, on top of the dough layer

  5. Then add 1-3 pieces of pork on top of the salsa, not too many so you are able to fold the husk

  6. Now, fold one side of the leave over, then the other so that the ingredients are covered, then grab the bottom part of the husk (the part you did not add dough to) and fold it over.

  7. Before adding the tamal into the steamer, add water to the steamer until it reaches the indicated mark, which will be about 2-3 inches from the bottom

  8. Add the covering plate (which will have holes)

  9. Now Place the prepared tamal into the steamer pot

  10. Repeat this until you use 95 of the corn husks.

  11. Try to place the tamales in a circle, and in neat, ordered layers

  12. Once you are finished adding tamales, using the remaining 5 leaves to cover the top

  13. Now put the steamer on the stove and boil it for two hours.

  14. About every 25-30 mins add more water, as you will probably run out

  15. DONE