Pepper Pork Tamales

Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Serves: 16
Pepper Pork Tamales
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  • 12 ounces boneless pork sirloin roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 dried ancho or poblano chile peppers
  • 1 dried New Mexico or pasilla chile pepper
  • 26 to 28 dried corn husks (about 8 inches long and 7 to 8 inches wide at the top)
  • 1 clove  garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted*
  • 4 cups Masa Harina (corn tortilla flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil


  1. For filling: In a 4-quart Dutch oven, combine pork, onion quarters, sliced garlic, and cracked black pepper. Add enough water to cover (about 4 cups). Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until meat is very tender. Remove meat from broth. Let meat and broth cool slightly. Remove and discard any fat from pork; shred pork. Strain broth and reserve 2-1/2 cups broth for the dough (save remaining broth for another use). Cover and chill meat and broth separately until ready to use.
  2. Meanwhile, in a dry medium skillet, cook ancho and New Mexico peppers over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until they have a toasted aroma, turning frequently. Let cool.
  3. Wearing disposable plastic gloves or small plastic bags, remove and discard pepper stems, seeds, and ribs. Tear peppers into pieces and place in a bowl. Cover peppers with boiling water; let stand for 30 to 60 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, soak corn husks in hot water about 30 minutes or until soft.
  4. Place a fine sieve over a bowl; pour softened peppers into sieve. Drain well; reserve peppers and liquid. In a blender, combine the soaked peppers, the 1 clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the cumin seeds. Add 1/2 cup of the pepper soaking liquid; cover and blend until nearly smooth.
  5. Transfer blended pepper mixture to a medium saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Stir shredded pork into hot pepper mixture in saucepan.
  6. For dough: In a large bowl, stir together Masa Harina, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add cooking oil; beat with an electric mixer or a spoon until combined. Stir in enough of the strained pork broth to make a mixture that resembles a thick creamy paste. To prevent dough from drying out, cover with a damp paper towel while assembling tamales.
  7. To assemble each tamale, drain a corn husk well; pat dry with paper towels. Starting about 1 inch from the top edge of the husk, spread about 2 tablespoons of the dough into a rectangle 3 inches wide and 4 inches long, spreading so one of the long sides is at the long edge of the husk. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the pork filling down the center.
  8. Fold the long edge of each husk over the filling so it overlaps dough slightly. Wrap husk around outside of filled dough. Tie ends with strips of corn husk or heavy kitchen string.
  9. To steam tamales, in a very large Dutch oven, stand half of the tamales upright in a steamer basket. (Don't pack them in too tightly, but fill all the spaces.) Place at least 1-1/2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring to boiling. Cover Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium. Steam for 30 to 35 minutes or until tamales easily pull away from corn husks and dough is spongy. Makes 26 to 28 tamales.
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