Cuban tamales from scratch – recipe + video

What you will need:

  • Half a sack of ear of corn
  • ½ of a purple onion (or any onion of choice)
  • ½ of a green bell pepper
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pound of pork chunks (or more depending on quantity of maza and taste)
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil (or any of your preference)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Goya complete seasoning (1 tbsp or to taste)
  • Goya seasoning with azafran (1 packet, to taste)

Preparing the maza:

  1. Begging by taking 2 or 3 corn cobs and making a sharp, deep cut along the top of the corn husk in a circular motion. This will allow you to separate the layers faster and easier. Then proceed to tear off the husk off the reminder corn cobs. This is easily done by making a cut from one end of the corn all the way to the bottom and tearing apart the husk.
    1. Take the separated layers and place them in a pot of boiling water, then lower temperature and let simmer in low for 45 minutes or until soft enough to bend without breaking (they should be ready by the time you finish preparing the maza and sofrito).
  2. Once all the corn is free of husk rinse them twice. The first rinse with clean water to remove any dirt, the second rinse is done one by one in a container and the water should be saved for later. Use the water from the second rinse as needed to moist the corn as it gets grated (don’t throw this water away, you will need it later)
  3. Place a tray under the homemade guayo (grater) and grate the corn. I find it easier to do the grating in the shape of an X and this keeps it a bit cleaner. It is a very messy process so wear a shirt you can get dirty and be prepared to have a messy floor after, trust me is worth it!
  4. After all the corn is grated, use one of the cobs and the water from the second rinse to moist the remaining mixture in order to go down the guayo. Don’t let any mixture out, but do remember that not everything will go down the guayo so it’s ok to have some left over on top.
  5. Place the maza into a large mixing container.
  6. If maza mixture is too thick, pour in some of the water used to moist corn until the consistency is right. The consistency should be liquid but not too liquid, this is the hardest part but it’s something you have to look at to determine if you need more water or not.

Preparing the sofrito:

  1. Dice the onion, garlic and bell pepper and mix it with the complete seasoning and goya con azafran seasoning package.
  2. Place oil on a pot or pan over medium heat and throw in seasoning mixture. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until onions and pepper start to soften.
  3. Throw in pork chunks and cook for 5 minutes in medium heat and then lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes or until meat is almost cooked (time varies depending on size of pork chunks, if left a bit undercooked it’s ok since it will finish cooking later once the tamale is assembled).
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix the sofrito and the maza together. Scrape down the reminder sofrito mix from the pan with water and throw that into the maza as well (we don’t want to leave that goodness behind).

Assembling the tamal:

  1. Take a few of the softened layers of leaves and cut small strips with your fingers. Tie two or three (depending on the size) together. We will use these strips to hold the tamal together.
  2. Separate the layers of leaves to form groups of two – one small and one bigger.
  3. Use the smaller leaf to form the container in which the maza mixture will be poured.
  4. To form the container, wrap the left end of the leave around your hand and hold it with your thumb. Then take the right side and hold it with your thumb. Then bring the bottom of the leave up and hold it with your thumb. By this step you should have form a container with the leaf.
  5. Holding the leaf container with your fingers (don’t let it fall apart) pour in the maza mixture. Do this over the pot containing the mixture so if anything falls we don’t waste it.
  6. Take the smaller leaf and use it to seal the contained, wrap it in the same way you did the longer leaf but upside-down.
  7. Use the tied strips to make a knot in the middle of the leaf container to secure the tamal. Repeat steps until you run out of maza mixture.
  8. In a pot of water, place all the assembled tamales and cook over medium heat for 60 minutes or until consistency is hard.

Optional mojito topping for tamal:

  1. Chop ½ an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic (not too thin). Mix onions and garlic with lemon juice (1 lemon or ½ depending on how much you’re making) and salt to taste. Heat up olive oil in a pan and once hot pour over the onions and garlic. Pour mojito over the tamales to taste and enjoy!


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