Basic Recipe used by the Romo Family - Created by Stella Romo - using recipes based on those used by her mother, sisters, and Felix's Family; and developing her own unique flavors and touches along the way.
Dried corn husks (ojas)
Boneless lean pork butt or shoulder
Dried pasilla chiles, roasted
Dried New Mexico chiles, roasted
Spices: allspice (oregano & cumin optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and Baking Powder
Lard and Salt for Masa
Pork Broth for Chile and Masa
Remove all silky threads from dried corn husks; then soak in hot water after cleaning thoroughly. Cover pork with water in large pot; bring to boil, skimming surface. Add garlic and salt for seasoning. Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours, until tender. Drain, RESERVING BROTH; then leave to cool. When cool, break meat into coarse shreds and set aside. Can be made 1-2 days ahead and refrigerated. Don't forget to RESERVE BROTH!
Cover roasted chiles with boiling water. let soak about 30 minutes. Drain chiles, reserving water, and place through a food processor or blender; when processed, place through a food mill or sieve, so that you are left with the pulp and no skins or seeds. Place reserved pulp in a bowl and add a bit of chili water to make a smooth consistency. Cook some garlic in 2 tablespoons lard until soft; at this point you may add spices you are using. Remove garlic and reserve. In same pan, add more lard and a bit of flour to make a "roux"; gradually add chile and pork broth to make a "gravy". (You can use powdered chile to make the roux instead of flour. In this instance, you can use New Mexico powdered chile and use in place of roasted, processed chili pods.)** Add all the chile mixture and garlic; and salt to taste. Stir well. Add a bit more pork broth to make a smooth gravy-saucelike conistency. Next add pork meat and stir all ingredients together well, and cook for about 20 minutes. If too thick, add pork broth as necessary. Taste for desired seasoning and spicy-hotness. Simmer another 30 minutes. Let cool; to use for tamales.
Beat lard until fluffy. Alternatively, melt some lard and let cool. Place prepared masa in large tubs and begin mixing with hands. As you work the masa, add bits of fluffy (or alternatively, the cooled lard) and a bit of pork broth, mixing well after each addition. Gradually mix in lard, salt and baking powder; and keep "working" masa until consistency feels right. Masa is ready when a small amount placed in a glass of cold water, floats to the top. It should be really light and fluffy and smooth; creamy and not grainy.
Take ojas and spread some masa on mid-section of each corn husk; spoon about 2 tablespoons of meat-chile mixture down center of spreaded oja. Fold husk over filling, allowing plain part of husk to wrap around tamal. Fold bottom up over enclosed filling.
In a steamer, place rack 2 inches above gently boiling water. Arrange tamales upright in steamer basket. Do not pack tightly. Fill in spaces with extra corn husks; cover steamer and steam 2-3 hours, or until tamales are firm and fall away from the husks easily.
We allow 1 pound of meat for 1 dozen tamales; 1 pound of dried corn husks yields about 6 dozen tamales.
Grandma Stella says "10# masa = 9-10# meat (boneless). For this amount, use about 3# lard, plus fat from top of cooled pork broth; and 3# ojas (according to how good and full oja leaves are).
The Romo Family has traditionally gotten together every year - usually around Thanksgiving weekend to make our tamales for the family. It's a very organized affair; as we all work together and work the assembly line. We started at the old homestead on Crivello Avenue in Pittsburg; and in the past years when Grandma Stella moved to Stockton; her apartment could not accommodate the family; so we go to Felix's home in Sonora. We have a wonderful time; good laughs; good food; good drinks and good times!
**For the last couple of years, we have used New Mexico chile powder (a combination of mild and hot - but mostly mild).
Happy memories from Tamale Day over the years. These are from 1982, 1986, 1995 and 2001...! Romo family preparing tamales and making this a family tradition over the years.
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