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Thread: Moose Tamales

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Interior Alaska

    Default Moose Tamales

    I've been wanting to try moose tamales for quite a while now.

    In the past, I've made traditional style tamales from pork, chicken, and beef, but had wondered what the moose meat would taste like in them. i'll add that I'm a stickler for traditional Mexican, or Tex-Mex tamales. Tonight we found out what moose tamales are like; they're fantastic.

    So, I'll share my traditional tamale recipe with you, and just use moose meat, as we did today....errr, yesterday.

    (*As a side-note, nearly every region in the S.W. U.S., Mexico, Central America, and South America, has their own traditional ingredients or style for making tamales. In many or most places, they're a traditional festive Christmas food, traditionally made with everything from a pig's head, to a Cental American version of chicken stew like stuff, and wrapped in either banana leaves or corn husks. My preference is for the traditional Northern Mexican tamales that are very similar to Tex-Mex tamales.)

    3-1/2 lbs. clean meat (I use sirloin tip roast, or top round roast, cut into largish pieces of 1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. each, for easier handling and fit in boiling)

    16-20 nice fat garlic cloves, peeled and cleaned/trimmed. (Half tyo be boiled in the meat broth, and half to be added to the sauce mix)

    1-1/2 to 2 medium to medium-large sweet onions

    40 large dried chili peppers of your choice (Half for the meat sauce, and half for a second batch of sauce to be drizzled over the finished tamales; in other words, two separate batches of the same sauce)

    6 nice dried whole cayenne peppers. (You can sometimes find 'garlands' of various peppers that folks bring up form the southwest. I have bags of cayennes from our own garden from a couple of years ago, as a garland that friendds brought back and gave us that are from New Mexico.)

    4 TBSP olive oil (2 TBSP for each batch of chili sauce)

    3 to 4 tsp. good ground cumin (1-1/2 to 2 tsp for each batch of chili sauce)

    7 tsp. salt (1-1/2 tsp. for each batch of chili sauce, plus 1-1/2 to 2 tsp. for boiling in the meat broth, and two tsp. salt for the masa dough)

    4 TBSP flour (2 TBSP for each batch of chili sauce)

    1-1/4 cups shortening (for the masa dough)

    9 cups masa harina (for masa dough)

    2-1/4 to 2-1/2 tsp baking powder (for masa dough)

    60 dried corn husks, plus some extras or smaller scraps to use for ties. (to wrap the tamales in for steaming)
    The ingredients are few and somewhat simple, but the time involved is notable. But that also makes them a great dish to prepare either with good friends or family, preferably around a large table area.

    In sizable stock pot, boil 3 to 4 lbs of decently clean moose roast (or other acceptable meat), with a minimum of sinew, with 1-1/2 to 2 medium large sweet onions cut into quarters, 8-10 large cloves of garlic pressed or minced, 1-1/2 to 2 tsp. salt, and 8-1/2 to 10-1/2 cups of H2O (just enough to properly submerge the meat and other ingredients while you boil the items for approx. 3 hours, or until very tender.)

    I also throw in a couple of dried cayenne peppers to the boiling mix with meat, but most folks usually save the peppers for the sauce.
    Take 20 or so dried whole California or New Mexican or Mexican (-large-) chili pods. I usually get the larger bags of these, and mix some extra dark pungent peppers (nearly black, they're so dark red), some 'hot', some 'warm' and some 'sweet and mild', or 'mild' peppers. (I won't bore you with the vast array of choices by names; read the packages). I also 'clean' and roast three or four nice size dried red cayenne peppers with the chilis, but I like a bit of 'zip' in my chili sauces. Not all chili sauces are necessarily hot. It's truly a matter of taste.

    Carefully de-stem and de-seed the dried peppers, and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 f., and roast for several minutes, just until there's a pungent sorta' sweet pepper smell, but no burning smell to them. About 3-5 minutes usually does it. The hotter ones can sometimes make your eyes water mildly when smelling them as they roast..
    Once roasted, take a bowl or other container large enough to hold the dried roasted peppers, and pour piping hot water over them, just enough to submerge them for rehydration.. (*If you want to you can add a beef boullion cube or three to this liquid as the peppers soak), letting them cool for a half hour or so. typically 6-7 cups or so of hot water is sufficient to cover the number of peppers referenced.

    Take your handy Oster blender or other large-size food processor, placing the rehydrated peppers into the blender, and pour approximately 2-1/2 to 3 cups of the chili-soaking water over the peppers into the blender, adding 1-1/2 to 2 tsp fresh ground cumin, 1-1/2 to 2 tsp. salt, 8 to 10 freshly minced or pressed cloves of garlic. Place the lid on tightly, and hold a paper towell over it, as the process can get really messy and red in a hurry sometimes. *Save the remainder of the chili soakig liquid in a jar.

    Press the button until the prettiest red-to-dark-red, somewhat thin, soupy paste fills the container in uniform consistency. The sauce recipe above pretty much fills up a standard 1-1/4 qt.+ size blender.

    Take a 5 to 8 qt., thick-bottom sauce pan (I recommend 8 qt., even though the final filling mix won't fill it up, as it gives you more room to work) and place a couple of TBSP of olive oil in the bottom. Add 1-1/2 to 2 TBSP of flour to the olive oil and whisk until the flour is uniformly blended in with the oil. Heat on medium heat until the flour is turning golden brown.

    Now add the red chili sauce from the blender, whisking it in smoothly as you add it to the olive oil and flour, making sure to whisk it thoroughly enough so as to not leave any lumps. (Whether in lumpy gravy, or lumpy chili sauce, the lumps detract from the meal.. at least a little.)

    Simmer chili sauce slowly, uncovered, for approx. 10 minutes. If too thick, add some of the chili soaking liquid that was saved. If too thin, let it cook down a bit, or add a slight amount of additional, prepared/cooked browned olive oil and flour mix, prepared without lumps from another pan, if you absolutely need to.

    Set sauce aside.
    When meat has boiled for 3 hours (+/-), place in bowl to cool, and retain broth in the pan to cool as well.

    When meat is cool, shred with two forks, one in each hand, to pull pieces of meat in opposite directions, until the meat is more shredded and fibrous in texture than not.

    When broth is cool, strain into a bowl or jar, discarding the solids that strain out, preserving only the broth in its own jar or bowl.

    Add all of the shredded meat to the chili sauce in the sauce pan and simmer for at least ten minutes on medium heat, covered. If too thick, add a small amount of the meat broth

    masa dough:
    Beat 1-1/4 cups shortening on medium to medium-high speed for a minute or two, until fluffy or lighter.

    In separate bowl, thoroughly mix 9 cups masa harina, 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 tsp. bakig powder, and 2 tsp. salt.

    Add meat broth and masa harina mix alternately to the shortening, adding only enough broth to make a smooth creamy paste, not too stiff and not too thin, until all of the masa harina mix is added. It needs to NOT be soupy, but to spread easily and hold its form on its own when spread onto a flat corn husk.
    Preparing corn husks:
    Soak corn husks in warm to hot water for at least 20 minutes, and once softened/rehydrated, carefully pull husks apart (they're layered, and there's usually quite a number in a single bundle; I typically buy dried corn husks in 8-oz. bags). Try to keep them as large and whole as possible.

    Take smaller or broken husks and strip them with, or parallel to, the grain, at widths of about 1/2 inch+. Tie a single knot in the narrow ends of the narrow strips, and then strip once more, stopping at the knot, thus nearly doubling the length of what willl later serve as a tie for the whole unbroken husks when they are rolled into tamales.

    Lay out kitchen, dish, or hand towells in each persons work area at the table, placing the meat and sauce mix in one bowl in the middle of the table, with several soup-size spoons available, and the masa harina mix in its separate bowl, also in the middle of the table.

    Take husks one at a time, and lay them flat as possible after patting dry with the towell(s).

    Spread a thin layer of masa dough onto the corn husks near one edge or the other, and 1/2 to 2/3 of the distance from the wider top of the husk to the pointed end of the husk, making a relatively rectangular area of masa dough in one corner of the top of the husk that might measure approximately 3" to 3-1/2" wide, by approximately 5"+/- long, and the masa spread to preferably no more than a 1/4" to 3/8" thickness on the husk.

    Take a spoon of the meat and sauce mixture, and lay approximately 1-1/2 TBSP of the mixture in the middle of the running the 5" length in a relatively small but sufficient line of fillling.

    Roll the masa in the husk, starting with the edge that the masa is closest to, kinda' like rolling a cigarette.

    When the one edge of dough is about to meet the other, thus encasing the filling, allow the edge of the husk that you first rolled to peel back just a bit from the meeting of the two dough edges, with both ends of the 'masa tube' remaining relatively open.

    Fold the pointed 'tail' of the corn husk onto the side of the husk-wrapped tamale, how ever far it will go without bending the actual tamale, and use the corn husk ties to wrap around the folded 'tail' of husk and tamale, thus binding it to the side of the husk-wrapped tamale.

    You know have a wrapped, raw, tamale, with one end closed by the folded tail of husk, and the other end open at the top.

    I've used various cooking implements to steam tamales over the years. Five-dozen tamales takes time to wrap, time to steam, and too little time to eat, so the bigger and more efficient cooker/steamer, the better.

    I have used racks inside of turkey roaster pans, with grill grates to keep the tamales above the boiling water. I've also taken balls of tin foil rolled to about 2" diameter, and placed about 8 of those in the bottom of a 22 qt pressure canner, setting the perforated barrier fro the bottom of the canner on top of them, to keep the tamales roughly 2" above the bottom of the canner, and out of the water.

    Some folks might have canning baskets that are fine enough and tight enough in their wire mesh to not let tamales slip through. Deep dryer baskets can also be suspended creatively in larger pots. Desperation and a desire for tamales can lead to any number of functional contraptions.

    Anyway.. Stand up the tamales vertically inside your steaming device (what ever it may be) with the closed/folded end down, and the open end up, filling the 'steamer' of your choice until full but not too packed, placing a tin-foil cone of sorts (approximately 1" to 1-1/2" diameter and at least as tall as your tamales) in the center of the steamer, in the middle of all those fine tamales, in order to allow for steam and heat to travel up the middle as well as elsewhere in the steamer.

    Once loaded, place the lid on, and let the thing steam for at least an hour., even an hour and a quarter to an hour and a third. If I'm using a pressure canner with the perforated barrier raised as a support and steamer tray, I -never- use the canner's pressure weight, -never- lock the lid down, and constantly have to mop up the moisture that escapes the thing; but it's worth it. You're not pressure cooking these; you're steaming them nicely... I hope... and so do you... even if you don't know it yet... ;^>)
    While your amazing traditional tamales are steaming,(traditional except for the moose meat, which I consider to be an inter-hemispheric act of good will and peace-making from afar, as it's sort of a northern-hemisphere-meets-equatorial-culture kinda' dish), make up the second batch of chli sauce (without adding any meat; just the chili sauce) per the earlier directions for the chili sauce; as I might've stated earlier this will be drizzled on the finished tamales. (remember all of those duplicated sauce ingredients in the beginning? Yeah, those...)

    Now wait until the things are done steaming, and note one of the finer smells to fill any home. It lingers for hours, too.

    I can usually eat enough tamales to end up rolling on the floor/couch/lawn in serious blissful pain. Kinda' like tonight...

    ** For a milder sauce in the meat, as well as to top the finished tamales with, you can use milder peppers and no cayenne. For spicier sauce, obviously, use hotter chili peppers and more cayenne. But not TOO hot; you wanna' be able to taste the tamales, otherwise affectionately referred to at our house as 'maalies.

    Happy chowing, and merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Interior Alaska

    Default BTW...

    You can experiment with making your tamales larger, and/or adding more filling. Make 'em the way that you like, once you get the hang of it.

    If you want to make a whole bunch by doubling, tripling, quadrupling the recipe (especially since they're so much effort to make, so you may as well make a bunch when you make 'em), and can actually make them last (something we've failed at time and again..), you can wrap the husk-wrapped tamales either individually or in bundles in plastic/seran wrap, and freeze.

    When re-heating them, let them thaw, and either reheat by steaming or micro-waving, though, as with most things, they're almost always better fresh.

    Store your left-over sauce in the refrigerator as it lasts at the very least for numerous days.

    To be honest, I haven't tried freezing the sauce, so I can't attest to the outcome with that, but the tamales fair just fine wrapped tightly in the freezer... If they make it that far.


  3. #3
    Member Alaska Grandma's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    little log cabin on the river


    Wow that sounds like a lot of work...But I bet it is well worth it and sounds like the whole process can be a nice family affair. Thanks for taking the time to post.

    I love Tex/Mex!
    Grandma Lori
    If God had intended us to follow recipes,
    He wouldn't have given us grandmothers. ~Linda Henley

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Interior Alaska



    Thanks, and you're welcome.

    After reading the posting for errors at roughly 3:00 A.M. this morning, and apparently incorrectly believing it to be relatively free of mistakes, I'm now a bit alarmed at the ones I appear to have missed.

    In terms of technical info, I left out that when rolling the husks, and allowing the very edge of the husk that was first picked for rolling to peel back just a hair to allow the dough edges to meet; once the dough edges meet in the rolling, continue rolling the husk until the thing is rolled into a conical sort of cylinder shape, as opposed to leaving the remainder of the husk loose.

    Yes, they take a fair amount of time. If working by yourself, count on 5-6 hours. Even with help, they can sometimes take that long. Which is why I advise folks with the capacity to freeze them to make several batches at the same time. 5-dozen of them go way too quickly on the consumption end!

    Like many aggrarian cultures that are often cash poor and time/skill rich, the folks who made these a tradition
    had learned how to take a little bit of every-day resources, and turn them into something incredible (not me, the folks who originally made these things, way down south....) ;^>)

    The nice part is that they're an awesome Christmas dinner item, and they won't cost what a prime rib or giant ham from the store will cost. If you've got moose roasts on hand, then your looking at $8.00 to $10.00 dollars worth of dried peppers (or less), .50 cents worth of bulk spices. Another $1.00 to $2.00 worth of onions, $3.00 or so worth of corn husks (don't soak the whole bag right off, as you may not need the whole thing, depending..), .25 cents to .50 cents worth of olive oil, and a couple of penny's worth of flour.

    And for that pittance, 12 persons can eat enough tamales to desire a siesta!



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