Morning Buzz

Mimi Ramirez’s Tamales


FAMILY RECIPE The pork tamales are the stars of the Ramirez family Christmas celebration and are made in a multi-day process. (Photo:



8 pounds pork shoulder
1 bunch fresh garlic, slivered
1 teaspoon salt
8 chili arbol peppers, washed and split with seeds and stems removed
8 Serrano peppers
Red Chili Sauce:
20 large dried guajillo peppers, washed and split with stems and seeds removed
6 chili arbol peppers, washed and split with seeds removed
½ large yellow onion, quartered
4½ cups water
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon seasoning
10 pounds fresh prepared masa (purchase at Fiesta Market Bakery section the day of tamale making)
1 pound lard, melted
½ cup broth from pork
½ cup red chili sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt to taste
Corn Husks:
2 16-ounce packages of corn husks

Recipe directions: 

Day 1: Grocery shopping and cooking the pork roast and red chili sauce.

Trim thick fat layer from the pork. Cut pork roast into large three-inch chunks. Make slits in the pork and insert large slivers of garlic. Place the pork in a large stock pot with enough water to cover it completely. Add salt and chili arbol and Serrano peppers. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours.

Remove pork from pan and let it cool. Save 1 cup of pork stock. When completely cool, shred pork. Store in refrigerator.

While pork is cooking, make red chili sauce. Place peppers, onion, water, garlic and chicken bouillon in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When cool, transfer mixture to a blender. Blend for 1 minute. Strain blended mixture through a sieve to remove solids. Store in refrigerator.

Day 2: This is the day the family gathers to make the tamales.

Purchase prepared masa from the bakery department of Fiesta Market on Bellaire Boulevard. It is better to buy it the day of the tamalera party. Mix the prepared masa, melted lard, pork broth, red chili sauce and seasonings. Knead to a smooth consistency. Adjust seasonings as needed. After kneading, you should be able to remove your hand without the masa sticking to it.

Wash corn husks thoroughly, removing any silk. Place husks in a large container of warm water. Hold husks down with a heavy object to keep the husks submerged in the water for one hour.

Combine pork and ½ red chili sauce mixture. Adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Remove husks from water, shake excess water off and place husks on a large platter.

For each tamale: Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa on the smooth side of each husk (about 1⁄8-inch thickness), leaving about 3 inches at the pointed end. Add about 1 tablespoon of pork mixture to the center of the masa and roll up the husk. Fold the pointed end of the husk (without the masa) under and add a little masa to the other end to seal. Repeat until all the masa and pork are used. Stack the tamales flat in a container and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3: Steaming the tamales

To steam the tamales, place them in a large stock pot with a raised rack. Place a penny in the bottom of the pot. When the water level becomes low, the penny will begin to rattle, indicating you need to add more water to the pot. The tamales should remain above the water line. Stack the tamales, teepee-style with the open end of the tamales pointed toward the center. Place a loose layer of husks over the tamales. Cover the pot and steam the tamales over low heat for 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave on burner for an additional 30 minutes. Tamales are done when you can easily peel them from the husks.

Makes about 10 dozen. We often double the recipe.

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