Pork and Raisin Tamales

Recipe from Candelaria Cisneros, Laredo

November 2001By Comments

Raisins give these classic pork tamales a touch of sweetness.

Pork Filling

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in 1-inch chunks
8 large or 10 medium ancho chiles, enough to make 3/4 cup purée
2/3 cup (5 ounces) lard
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground red chile
1 cup raisins, to be used at assembly stage.

It’s best to cook the pork a day ahead because of the time involved. In a large saucepan, cover meat with water and simmer, covered, until very tender, about an hour. While meat is cooking, tear dried chiles into flat pieces and toast on an ungreased comal or heavy skillet over medium heat, pressing with a spatula until they crackle and change color, about 30 seconds per side. Do not let burn.

Remove from skillet, cover with hot water, and let rehydrate for 30 minutes. Remove cores and stems and run pulp through a blender or mash in a molcajete. Set aside.

Remove saucepan with pork from heat and let cool. Skim off fat and reserve for making masa. Remove meat from broth (reserving liquid for making masa) and either chop finely with a knife or shred using 2 forks. Set aside.

Heat lard in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add chile purée, salt, cumin, garlic powder, pepper, and ground chile. Fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add meat and cook for about 5 more minutes, adding some of the reserved broth if mixture starts to stick to pan. Taste and add more spices if necessary (the seasoning should be robust because some of the flavor will leach into the masa when the tamales are steamed). Refrigerate.


2 cups (1 pound) chilled vegetable shortening or lard
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground red chile
6 cups (3 pounds) dried masa harina for tamales
scant 4 cups warm broth reserved from pork (supplement with warm water if needed)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
reserved fat from cooking pork
salt to taste
1 or more packages dried corn shucks.

Using an electric mixer, beat shortening with baking powder and ground chile for at least a minute. Mix masa with broth, then beat it into the shortening in at least 3 batches. For a richer flavor, spoon in up to 1/4 cup of reserved fat. Taste and add up to 1 tablespoon salt, beating thoroughly.

Make into tamales, using only about 1 tablespoon of masa and 1 tablespoon of meat for each one—these tamales are pequeños. Place 3 raisins in each tamale before folding. Steam until husk comes away cleanly from masa, about 1 hour. Makes 6 dozen small tamales.

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