Good Things, Small Packages

With these four fresh takes on tamales, it's what's on the inside that counts.

New Mexicans have many ways to enjoy the holidays through our unique food and drink. One of our gifts to you this holiday season is a recipe for making an adobe gingerbread house from our December, 2008 edition.  View and print it here.

During the holiday season, many New Mexican families gather for a tamalada (a tamale-making party). Because tamales can be quite labor-intensive to make, families create assembly lines with each member taking on a role—putting on the masa (a mixture of ground corn and a binding ingredient like lard), layering the filling, and tying the cornhusks.

Tamale-making has been a tradition for thousands of years—there is evidence that Mesoamerican peoples made tamales in what is today Honduras as far back as 10,000 years ago. Here in the Southwest, maize (corn) has been integral to the culture since ancient peoples began farming it sometime around 1250 b.c. These pre-Colombian tamales, however, looked different from the varieties familiar to us today—like that of pork and red chile. Ancestral Puebloans didn’t raise pigs, and therefore had no pork or lard. So, tamales don’t necessarily require pork. In fact, tamales are much like sandwiches: You can fill them with just about anything. The configuration is limited only by your imagination.

Read the complete article and recipes here.