Cinco de Mayo Treat: Sweet fruit tamales

SweetTamales

My dad’s family always used to make tamales on New Year’s Eve, but I was too young to remember being part of that tradition. So when my half-brother Bruce and his wife Donna came for a visit, I asked them to bring the family recipe.

We spent all day making a special tamale feast together from scratch. I heard that the reason lots of tamale places are closed on Tuesdays is because everyone’s arms are so tired from all of the tamale-making that happens on Mondays. I believe it!

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Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I’m sharing the recipe for sweet  – and adorable – pineapple and golden raisin tamales.

{Bonus: They’re allergen-free} Emmett was a fan.

Sweet Tamales (yields approximately 60)

These fruit tamales are a little quicker to whip up than the meat kind, but it’s still more fun if you have a big group lending a hand. I’d recommend making the masa ahead and then gathering everyone together to fill the tamales. Play a little music and the process turns into a party. (My favorite is The David Wax Museum, a Mexican-inspired folk band with roots in Columbia, MO.)

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 Shopping list:

  • Corn husks (1 package, soaked overnight)
  • Masa (4 cups)
  • Lard (1 cup – yeah, I know!)
  • Sugar (1 cup – could probably be cut down if you use the pineapple juice)
  • Baking Powder (2 tsp)
  • Salt (2 tsp)
  • Pineapple (1 20 oz. can – crushed is best)
  • Golden Raisins (1/2 box)
  • Water (4 cups – cut if you use juice)

1. Start by combining masa, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.

2. Using an electric mixer, whip the lard until it’s fluffy (a few minutes on a medium-low speed).

DSC_07763. Add the dry mixture to the lard and add water. Use your hands to combine. 

4. Mix in crushed pineapple (we gave the tidbits a few spins in the food processor) and half box of golden raisins.

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Keep mixing by hand. Test a tiny bit of the wet masa mixture by dropping it in a glass of water. If it floats, it’s mixed well enough! I think the trick is to try to rake/fluff it.

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5. Put a dollop of masa in the center of a husk (don’t forget to soak the husks overnight.) Wrap the husk around the masa and tie off with strips of masa, in a candy shape.

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I like to give them a good double-knot and trim the ends so everything looks neater and more compact.

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How cute are these? Come on, now. 20140504_113425

6. When you’ve assembled all of your cute little sweet tamales, it’s time to steam them.

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We fit half a batch at a time in our roaster, with 3 glasses of water poured in the bottom. Steam for about 70 minutes.

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Enjoy your tamales warm, or refrigerate/freeze them and they microwave nicely for a treat later.

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***

One of my favorite childhood memories was when we’d go to La Guadalupana in the Chicago neighborhood Pilsen and stock up on dozens of pork and chicken tamales. We’d eat one hot on the road — always washed down with a naranja Jarritos — and then freeze a few dozen for later. At home, I’d challenge myself to eat a spicy chicken tamale with a big glass of milk close at hand to cut the heat.

In Des Moines, two spots to go for authentic tamales are Tamales Industry and my favorite, La Rosa, which may have just re-opened?

Also, this is not really related, but my brother Bruce also happens to be an award-winning home brewer! He’s featured in this free University of Oklahoma online course on the Chemistry of Beer. It’s really well-done, so if you have any interest in the science of brewing, check it out.

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