By Reina Hasting
Happy 2019! Since 1904, crowds have packed New York’s Times Square for one of the most famous traditions in America, the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball. At midnight, thousands of people enjoy the mesmerizing kaleidoscopic effect with millions of vivid colors and patterns. From champagne, food and fireworks to resolutions and fresh starts, New Year’s has been many things to many people.
New Year’s traditions vary from country to country and home to home. I grew up with my mother always giving us each 12 grapes for good luck leading up to midnight, which is also a tradition in Spain. In Japan, long buckwheat noodles are eaten to celebrate the new year, symbolizing a long life, and in Greece, a round-shaped cake called vasilopita is shared with a coin baked inside for luck.
New Year’s is also celebrated at different times. The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the end of January or early February. Other cultures celebrate in the fall with Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year, and the first day of Muharram, which is the start of the Islamic calendar year.
Whatever your traditions or resolutions, enjoy the new year! I plan to make tamales with my family. Although I don’t have the recipe written down to share, here’s a tamales recipe from New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service you can try, at http://bit.ly/2F3luZF.
Red Chile Tamales
1. Prepare the meat filling: 4 pounds meat (chicken, beef or pork), 2 to 5 garlic cloves (your preference) and 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano (optional).
Place meat, garlic and oregano in a pot, cover with water and cook meat until tender. Cool slightly, discard bones, fat and garlic cloves. Finely shred meat to mix with prepared red chile mixture (recipe follows). Reserve broth for use in preparation of tamales.
2. Place 1 pound of dried red chile pods (rinsed in cold water to remove dirt) in a stock pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Drain pods and discard cooking liquid. Remove stems and seeds from chili pods.
In a blender, working in small batches, place the pods, 1 clove of garlic and salt to taste, and then add cold water to cover. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes. Continue process until all chile pods are processed. The 1 pound package of dried pods will make about 12 to 15 cups of red chile sauce.
Use 10-12 cups of red chile sauce with the prepared (cooked and shredded) meat for the 5 pounds of masa in this recipe. Red chile is often used with pork or beef for making tamales.
3. Prepare the corn husks: 1 pound hojas. These dried corn husks can be purchased at most local markets.
Soak husks in hot tap water (about 15 minutes) and remove any corn silk or other matter. Leave husks submerged in water until ready to use.
4. Prepare the corn masa: 5 pounds prepared fresh masa, plain, without added ingredients (labeled “sin preparada” or without preparation, can be purchased at most local grocery stores or local specialty markets). Or use tamale masa mix: 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 cup canola or olive oil, and additional chicken or beef broth (from reserved) if more moisture is needed.
Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add broth if necessary. Masa should be a thin enough consistency to stick to and spread easily onto corn husks.
5. Assemble the tamales: Take large corn husk, shake off excess water, place the open husk in your open hand, smooth side up. Using a rubber spatula or other spreader, wipe on about 2-3 tablespoons of prepared masa, covering the husk in the center and leaving the edges clean. Top with a generous 1-2 tablespoons of meat and chile mixture. Fold sides of the husk toward center and the bottom of the husk up. Secure with a torn strip of husk.
Tamales must be cooked by steam. Use a tamale steamer, a pressure cooker or any steam pan. Steamers typically cook for 60-90 minutes whereas pressure cookers take 15 minutes. Tamales are done when corn masa is “set” (appears dry) and when the husk peels away from tamale easily, maintains the tamale shape.
The recipe makes about 6 dozen medium tamales.
Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-474-2437.