I am a big fan of this new sweet pumpkin tamal recipe. I only make them at home as we don’t make sweet tamales anymore at our family’s annual tamalada. I kinda miss them, but only a handful of cousins and aunts actually like the sweet ones.
Believe it or not, back in the day our family put raisins and one black olive in the red chile tamal. Strange, right? Later I became intrigued and asked around but no one seemed to know why we did it except our Aunt Penny. God love Aunt Penny because she remembers EVERYTHING. Penny tells me that it was a “Californio” thing. Olive tree groves were everywhere in the Pomona and Diamond Bar area where my family is from. You see, on my mom’s side we are at least 5th generation Mexican-American. Well, let’s get real. On my mom’s side the Tafoyas lived in California when it was pinche Mexico.
As a kid I wasn’t a fan of pumpkin. It hasn’t been until probably the last few years that I’ve enjoyed pumpkin pie, cookies, and other sweet pumpkin treats. Working with pumpkin this season had me thinking: How do I transform my recipe for sweet tamales typically made with oodles of brown sugar, pineapple and raisins to a tamal filled with a delectable pumpkin and corn masa pudding? After several tries, this is the recipe that I think I’ll be making for years to come. Even the misfires, the versions that didn’t make the cut, still had my family and friends asking for more.
PUMPKIN TAMAL RECIPE
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Yields: About 12 tamales
For the Pumpkin Filling
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed firmly
1 (15 ounce) can organic pumpkin puree, NOT pie filling
¼ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Sweet Masa
40 corn husks, soaked in water for at least an hour as ultimately some will tear
2 cups masa harina (keep some handy to add to the masa)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups hot water
1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
Method for the Filling:
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves with the butter. Stir in the pumpkin and the spices.
- Continue to stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Make sure the filling is not too watery; otherwise let it cook for a couple more minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down. After it’s cooled off for about 15 minutes, put the filling in the refrigerator to help it set for 30 minutes or overnight.
Method for the Masa and Assembly of Tamales:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina and other dry ingredients. Mix well.
- Add water, condensed milk and shortening.
- Knead with hands until thoroughly mixed. Masa should be smooth and not stick to hands. If it still sticking to the hands, gradually add more masa harina until you get the right consistency of the dough.
- Drain corn husks and pat dry.
- Hold corn husk with pointy side towards you.
- Scoop 1/4 cup of masa mixture on corn husk and spread with a spoon, leaving a 1-inch border on the sides.
- Add a heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture to the center of the masa spread.
- Fold one side of the corn husk over mixture then fold the other side, overlapping.
- Fold the pointed side up and turn over to keep it from unfolding.
- Repeat with remaining husks and masa.
- Arrange tamales upright in a steamer with the sealed side on the bottom.
- Fill with hot water right below the steamer rack and heat over medium-high heat.
- Cover top of tamales with a layer of remaining husks and a damp towel.
- Cover with lid, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, adding water as needed. Steam for 1 1/2 hours or until when tested the corn husks unwraps and masa separates easily from the husks.
- Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving warm.