For years, I have wanted to learn to make tamales. My first attempt tasted more like a flat tire and from what I understand, I was making Mexican tamales. I heard there was a version of the tamale that was made in the Delta, so I decided to give them a try and I am so glad that I did. There are as many recipes as there are cooks perhaps, but these ingredients make it a Delta Hot Tamale. They are made with yellow corn meal instead of masa. They are also simmered instead of steamed. And they typically are a bit more spicy than the Mexican version. They are a little time consuming, but definitely worth it. Notice, this recipe uses butter instead of lard and I think it also adds flavor to the tamales.
24 husks, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
1 ½ tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon pepper (I reduced the black pepper to ½ teaspoon because I knew my family would not tolerate it hotter.)
¾ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (I cut this back to ½ teaspoon also.)
Blend spice mixture with a fork.
2 ½ cups of yellow corn meal (not masa)
1 tablespoon baking powder
Mix in the food processor.
12 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoon of spice mixture
Cut into mixture. Pulse several times.
1 ¼ cup of water. Process about 30 seconds.
Reserve ½ cup of mixture.
1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop to make rounds for each tamale. 24 of them
1 lb. 85% ground beef
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water
and the ½ cup of the corn meal mixture
2 cloves minced garlic
1 ½ tablespoon of spice mixture.
Wipe off corn husks to dry them.
Spread a 3 ½ inch square in one corner of the husk. It can be on the edge on the side edge, but ¼” from top edge. Roll one portion of the meat into a log. Place on the mixture.
Roll the tamale in the husk and fold the bottom of the husk upward. Lay to the side. Repeat 23 times.
Put in bunches of six and tie with a string.
Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture in the bottom of a pan that is at 5” high. Place tamale bunches around the sides. Place 6 cups of water poured into the center of the bunches (or until it is 1 inch below the top of the pan, but not covering the tamales completely or it will wash the filling out. Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer for about 30 minutes. The corn meal should start to separate from the husks. Use tongs to transfer to a platter.
Crank the heat up on the sauce.
Snip twine and spread the tamales out on a platter. This recipe made more than we would eat for one meal, so I unwrapped the ones that we were eating immediately.
Add a 4 ounce can of tomato paste and stir until well blended. Add ½ teaspoon salt and stir.
If the sauce is too thin, add a slurry of 1 teaspoon cornstarch and two tablespoons cold water. Whisk it into the sauce and let it thicken about a minute. Pour over tamales and serve. (Reserve enough sauce for leftovers.)