One of my favorite recipes growing up was definitely my Nanny's tamales. The recipe she used is an old one out of the local paper The Natchez Democrat.
I'll go ahead and warn you that this is a lengthy recipe post, considering how long it takes to make them I thought I should add in a few photos for the non-tamale makers out there to get an idea of it step by step.
Start off by making your meat mixture. Combining everything in a large skillet together and cooking until the beef is cooked through, due to the liquid in the filling the meat will break down and not be in chunks, but that's what you want.
While filling is cooling mix up your corn meal mixture. If your masa harina is lumpy I'd suggest sifting it a bit. Stir with a spoon just enough to combine, you may need more of the corn meal mixture, so I suggest having enough to make two batches of the mix. Don't start off with that much, just see where it leads you.
Once everything is ready to begin recruit as many people as you can and give everyone a baking sheet and a stack of coffee filters.
The more people you have the faster this will go, although I don't suggest having more than 5-6... things will get crowded.
After you've grabbed your filter get a good heaping tablespoon full of the corn meal mixture, spread it out in a tamale shape along your coffee filter.
Scoop out one tablespoon of the meat mixture (you don't want more than that) and place it on top of the corn mixture. Spoon one more tablespoon of cornmeal on top of the meat.
Shape with your fingers, or roll back and forth until the meat mixture is covered in corn meal.
Fold up the coffee filter like a burrito over the tamale mixture. First place one side over the tamale, fold in the sides, and then roll up the rest of the way.
My tamale making crew, with special instructions from Pop. Who might I add was who Nanny recruited to make tamales... so we knew he knew his stuff. I'd have to say we weren't steered wrong.
Now that you've forced your family to roll up a zillion tamales, I started to do a count people was it was ridiculous, it's time to cook them!
Get your hands on a large stock pot and a steamer basket, or a stock pot with the pasta basket insert.
Lay your tamales on the pan in layers (the easier the layers are to figure out the easier they will be to remove). Make sure the tamales do not touch the bottom of the pan, they will for sure burn if they do.
Next, mix up your steam mix and pour it over the tamales.
Mom and I opted to add a little more water like the recipe calls for, but Pop said they never added more than the seasoning mix. The main thing is to make sure you don't run out of water while steaming them.
Place your tight lid on and bring to a boil, and be prepared to cook it for ages.
I promise you it's well worth it though.
Coffee Filter Tamales
makes 50-75 tamales
2 lbs ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
1 tbsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp French's Chili-O seasoning mix
1/2 c water
1/2 c white cornmeal
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 (10 oz can) Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
50 - 75 coffee filters (or tamale papers)
Corn Meal Mixture
3 cups Masa Harina (or white corn meal)
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp Chili-O seasoning mix
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes
Enough water to cover tamales (Pop said this wasn't necessary, just watch to make sure they have liquid)
Combine first 10 ingredients for meat mixture. Onions, garlic, water, tomato sauce, and Rotel tomatoes may be placed in a blender and processed until finely minced. Drop one round tbsp of meat mixture into corn meal mixture and roll lightly, shaping into an oblong roll about 2-inches long. Place tamale on a coffee filter and fold securely like a burrito. Stack tightly in a large stock pot on top of a steam basket. When all tamales are stacked, pour steam mixture over tamales and cover with a tight lid. Simmer for two hours, watching carefully to make sure there is enough water to cover tamales.
We found that it was easier to place the corn meal in the coffee filter to shape the tamale, definitely less messy. I like a firmer tamale with a bit more cornmeal and our method will definitely give you that. Rolling in the corn meal will not give you as much corn meal mixture.
We also did not cover the tamales with water completely like the recipe called for, be sure you are steaming and not boiling them.
Last little tip, don't start your two hour time for steaming until the steaming mixture actually comes to a simmer.
I really hope y'all like this recipe as much as our family does, let me know if you attempt to make it.