Let’s Talk Tamales – A Holiday Favorite & Labor of Love

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and many delicious holiday favorites that haven’t made an appearance since last year will start to show up again. These include candy, turkey, stuffing, and holiday cookies. However, for many families, one of the biggest signals of the holiday season is the welcome smell of tamales cooking.

Though tamales can be made and enjoyed during any time of the year, they are a special holiday treat in many households. Making a truly excellent batch of tamales takes time and effort. This is why so many families will pull out the old family recipe during the holiday season.

What Are Tamales and How Are They Made?

There is a lot of rich history when it comes to tamales. Originally, tamales were made with corn husks left over from the harvest. Harvesting usually takes place in November or December. Therefore, it’s no surprise this delicious meal became associated with the holiday season. Although corn husks can now be purchased year-round, the tradition of making them around the holidays remains important to many families.

However, the corn husk exterior isn’t what makes tamales so delicious. Instead, the warm, savory filling of well-seasoned meat and vegetables baked in a starchy dough coating makes this meal genuinely satisfying. In fact, the corn husk is either eaten around or removed entirely to enjoy a tamale properly.

For some, simply preparing the meat and vegetable filling can be a multiple-day affair, as the filling is best when slow-cooked and allowed to soak up all the seasonings thoroughly. Next, the cook will use masa, a unique dough made from ground corn, to create the dough that surrounds the meat and veggie filling. Most families will make large batches of this holiday favorite at a time to eat some and freeze some for later. Therefore it typically takes multiple pounds of masa and meat to complete the recipe.

The tamale maker first soaks, cleans, and dries the corn husks that cover the tamales before spreading the prepared masa dough within them. Then they add the meat and vegetable filling and carefully wrap it all up. Next, the cook places them into a hot steamer and leaves them to simmer for around an hour. An experienced cook knows that the tamales are ready when the husk starts to separate from the dough inside.

Why Tamales Are an Important Cultural Staple

As you can see, tamales are truly a labor of love that requires many hands to complete. Sharing them at a table full of family and friends is an integral part of the holiday season for many. Tamales are not only a delicious and satisfying meal. They also remind many families of their heritage and provide a great way for loved ones to bond over a shared experience.

Moreover, tamales were considered food from the gods, a sacred dish. The Aztecs, Mayas, Olmecs, and Toltecs believed themselves people of the corn. So it is no surprise that using all aspects of corn, including the corn husks, plays an essential part in their culture. Tamales were often made during rituals and festivals. This continues today throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

In the U.S., tamales have a blended history with contributions from indigenous people and other cultures. If you are interested in learning more about tamales’ profound impact and ancestral roots, read more here.

Enjoy Fresh Mex This Holiday Season at Chevys!

If Fresh Mex isn’t a typical part of your family’s holiday customs, there’s never a wrong time to start. And for those who are short on time, you can leave the preparation to us! Grab some tamales and other Fresh Mex favorites this holiday season from Chevys. This is a great way to support local businesses while enjoying a delicious holiday favorite! Visit us at Chevys today.