Green Corn Tamales

Tamales are a special treat in our house, so we make them for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Tamales have a reputation of being hard to make, but if you have a couple of helpers, you can make tamales very quickly. This recipe is for a meatless tamale, but you can use the masa dough for meat tamales as well.

Green Corn Tamales
3 medium ears fresh corn, or 1 can of corn
18 husks from the corn, or dried ones from the store
3 cups masa harina tortilla flour
1 cup shortening
2 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
2 (4-oz.) cans diced green chili peppers
Parchment paper, or dry waxed paper
A single recipe makes 18 tamales. To use fresh cornhusks, peel the corn, keeping 18 of the larger cornhusks (or two smaller cornhusks per tamale if there aren’t enough large ones). Then wash and soak the husks in warm water for 30 minutes. To use dried cornhusks (which is easier), count out 18 from the package and soak them in warm water for 30 minutes. If you want big tamales, you can overlay two husks side by side to wrap bigger tamales. While the husks are soaking, start making the masa.

To use fresh corn, cut the uncooked corn off the cob, making sure to scrape the cobs to get all the juicy stuff. Or just use the entire undrained can of corn. The texture of niblet-type corn is nice in this recipe. Put whatever type of corn you are using into a blender and grind it up a bit. Add enough water to make 2½ cups of corn/water mixture. Blend again for a bit, but not too much. You want to leave some bits of corn identifiable, not completely pureed, but also not huge chunks. Combine the masa flour and corn mixture in a bowl. Stir well until all the liquid is mixed in. The mixture will be thick and not all the flour will be damp. Cover the mixture and let it stand for 20 minutes. 

When the time is nearly up, start on the final part of the masa. In a large mixing bowl, preferably a Bosch or Kitchen Aid-type machine, and using the cookie paddles, cream shortening, sugar, baking powder and salt until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Omit the sugar if you are making meat tamales. Add the corn/masa mixture to the shortening mixture. Beat together for several minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Add up to half a cup or more water if the mixture appears dry until you get the right texture. The consistency of the masa should be like thick fake mashed potatoes. How much water you need to add depends on how much moisture there was in your corn. Dry masa dough makes dry tamales. The masa is done being whipped when a pea-sized ball of dough will float when dropped into a little bowl of water.

Troubleshooting tip: If you whip the dough for 10 minutes and a little dough ball will still not float in water, add a few extra tablespoons of shortening and whip it for a couple more minutes. It should work now.
Drain cornhusks and rinse them. Pat them dry a bit if you want.

Lay out 18 cornhusks on the table or counter and divide the masa onto them, probably about 1/3 cup per corn husk.

Using a large spatula, spread the dough into a rectangle on the wide end of the corn husk. The masa doesn’t have to be perfect, just fairly rectangular-shaped.

Using a teaspoon, put a strip of green chiles down the center of each rectangle.

Then add a spoonful of cheese on top of the chiles for all the tamales.

Using the cornhusk, roll up the masa over the strip of chiles and cheese, so the tamales are wrapped into a cylinder.

Roll the tamale into the husk.

Fold the empty end of the husk up.

Place each wrapped tamale in the center of a sheet of parchment — or a "dry waxed" sheet or "sandwich wrap" paper. The dry waxed paper will not be as slippery, so it works better than parchment.

Fold the paper around it, making a neat little package. You can skip the parchment paper if you want, but the paper helps keep the tamales packaged and moist as they cook.

At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the tamales, if desired. Place the tamales into a steamer, making sure you keep the open-top end of the tamale up when they go in the steamer. Cover and steam fresh or refrigerated tamales 45 minutes. Steam frozen tamales for 60 minutes. Add water to steamer as needed. Serve with Baja Sauce, if desired.

Hint: A double recipe will not fit in a Bosch. Make 1½ recipe or two single batches instead. Tamales take practice to make quickly, but once you figure it out, it will be quicker. You can use this dough for meat tamales, but skip the sugar in the masa.


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