Christmas and Tamale Making in Central Texas

in Food

It is that time of year, when families gather and eat, celebrate and for many cultures, make tamales.  The making of tamales is a wonderful tradition in the Hispanic culture. And if you haven't tried a true hand-made tamale, you don't know what you are missing.

Tamales today represent not just a food for Hispanic cultures but a tradition, whereupon around Christmas, families get together to make these wonderful dishes. Tamales are also often made and eaten during festivities for the Day of the Dead, Las Posadas and Mexican Independence Day. Tamales today are considered a comfort food in Mexico, eaten as both breakfast and dinner, and often accompanied by hot Atole or Champurrado.

Tamales are said to date back to 1519, even though the maize-based tortilla most likely predates even this. The tamale was eaten as a celebration food in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BCE. Aztec and Maya civilizations as well as the Olmeca and Tolteneca before them used tamales as a portable food, often to support their armies but also for hunters and travelers. There have also been reports of tamale use in the Inca Empire long before the Spanish visited the new world.

Tamales were one of the main staples found by the Spanish Conquistadors when they first arrived in Mexico. This discovery spread the knowledge of the tamale around the world.

Tamales are made by families due to the fact they are made in such large quantities.  Batches of tens and hundreds are made at one time.  A tamale is made by spreading corn masa, which is made of dried corn simmered with lime and ground on a stone metate, over the top of dried corn husks. Flavoring is added to masa in the form of a paste made of chiles, meat or beans. The whole bundle is then wrapped and steamed in a clay cazeula.  Today, aluminum steamers have replaced the cazeula and masa can be purchased rather than made. Traditionalists still make their masa with a good amount of lard mixed in.

Tamales are filled with various types of meat rather than beans. Meats can include shredded chicken, shredded pork cooked with cumin, chili powder and garlic powder, or even ground beef. A greed or red chili sauce is also stewed together and added to the masa before cooking. You can also save the sauce for spreading over your tamale after taking it out of the corn husk to eat.

If you were never taught to make tamales authentically, there are tamale-making classes available in cities such as San Antonio. Because the tradition is so popular, the San Antonio Public Library and the Witte Museum began their glasses in November. The classes book up quickly, so be sure to pre-register.

If you are interested in just purchasing tamales for your family during the holidays, there are many sources for this as well in the San Antonio region.  "Delicious Tamales" is one of the city's largest providers of tamales with six outlets. You can also order tamales at Mexican food restaurants.

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Deborah Allen has 1 articles online

Deborah Allen is a sales counselor at Ranches of Brushy Top, a hill country acreage real estate community. They sell some of the most remarkable, rural, hill country Texas land located near Blanco, TX. For more information please visit


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Christmas and Tamale Making in Central Texas

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This article was published on 2010/12/01