December 12, 2012 10:03:50 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Tamales or tamaladas are as much a part of Christmas traditions in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries as bacalao (salted cod), pizole (hominy soup) and a nice roasted pavo (turkey). And why wouldn't they be especially popular during Christmas as tamales are one of the only foods that come already gift wrapped. But Christmas is also a time for comfort food -- food filled with love and care in the manner in which it is prepared and that warms the soul when it is consumed -- and there is something quite comforting about tamales. What in essence is a meat-filled masa dumpling steamed in corn husks or banana leaves, the tamale has become one of the more popular food exports to the US.
Tamales have always enjoyed a certain level of popularity in the southwest, but they also have a storied history in Mississippi. Blues icon Robert Johnson mentions them in the first line of his song "They're Red Hot," and an entire food trail has been created around the state's tamale restaurants. From Doris' Red Hot Tamales in Dieberville on the Gulf Coast to the Delta mainstay Abe's, where they are served with saltine crackers and slaw, tamales have become a part of the state's culinary culture.
The Fork N Road is an unassuming deer processing shack off of Highway 45 in Caledonia. While deer processing and tamales may not be synonymous, it has become a cottage industry for Fork N Road owner Jack Larmour and his staff.
"We were looking for something different and we started researching tamales," Larmour said. "We knew of a deer processing place in south Mississippi that was making tamales. We spent about two months working on our recipe. Let's just say I tried so many recipes that I hardly eat tamales anymore."
While developing his special recipe, Larmour said he found inspiration from a local iconic Mexican food restaurant.
"I like tamales and I've eaten them from all over the place," Larmour said. "I started looking around and I love the tamales at the Mexican Kitchen. I wanted to create something that tasted authentic like theirs. I didn't want something that tastes like Mexican cornbread."
Larmour and company have been making and selling beef tamales for about two years, using a secret recipe and receiving some help from the Tamale King, a machine that inserts the meat filling perfectly into the corn casing.
"We make them on Wednesday and Thursday," processor Josh Boyer said. "We also make and sell our own Mexican hot sauce."
Boyer said he starts the tamales by preparing the masa, adding special spices and ground beef. The masa mixture and ground beef are separately placed in the Tamale King before being hand-rolled in corn husks. The tamales are then steamed to perfection before being vacuumed sealed.
But ask Larmour or Broyer about purchasing some of their famous deer tamales and the answer is a resounding, "no."
"We can't sell any deer tamales, it is illegal to sell deer meat and deer meat products," Broyer said. "People bring us their deer and we turn it into different sausages, bacon and a lot of other things including tamales. A lot of people want some of their deer made into tamales. We charge a processing fee for the things we make."
Larmour's deer tamales have become so popular that some people have gone a bit overboard in the their processing requests.
"We have people that come in and want their whole deer processed into tamales," processor David Trotter said. "It only takes about a pound of meat to make a dozen tamales, so that would be a lot of tamales."
Larmour, however, said the customer gets what the customer wants.
"But if a whole deer processed into tamales is what they want, then that's what we will give them," Larmour added.
4 pounds boned pork shoulder (butt), most of fat trimmed
3 ounces dried California or New Mexico chiles (see Quick Tips below)
1 1/2 ounces dried pasilla chiles
1/4 cup flour
2 large garlic cloves
2 teaspoons each coriander seeds and dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2/3 cup each chopped tomato and onion
1/2 cup each chopped green bell pepper and chopped seeded Anaheim chiles
3 cups (1 1/3 lbs.) fresh lard, divided
2 tablespoons instant beef bouillon
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 cup each chopped cilantro sprigs and sliced green onions
5 pounds fresh masa (masa fresca, dough made from ground dried corn kernels and no lard or salt); or 8 cups dehydrated masa (also sold as corn flour, masa harina, or instant corn masa mix), mixed until smooth with 5 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
3/4 pound dried cornhusks (see Quick Tips below)
1 jar (10 oz.) small pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained
2 cans (7 oz. each) sliced pickled jalapeño chiles, drained
Salsa, store-bought or homemade$
Recipe courtesy myrecipes.com