Green Corn Tamales
3 dozen ears white dent corn *
18 ounces butter (Pamela and Valeria use margarine)
13 ounces lard
1 cup (7.5 ounces) Morena pure cane sugar
1 heaping teaspoon salt
2 pounds queso fresco
2 pounds orange cheddar (you may have leftover)
12 large green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into strips **
Remove the first outer layers of husk from the corn and discard. Save all remaining layers (your thigh is a good resting place, as seen in the photos). Set reserved husks aside and discard the corn silk.
With a sharp knife - or a plane like Pamela is using in the picture, if you are lucky enough to have one - cut kernels off the cob into a large bowl. Purée the corn kernels well in a food processor to make the masa. Or, you can also us a hand cranked mill if you are a masochist! Set masa aside.
Mix the butter/margarine and lard in a large bowl and massage them together with your hand, until no lumps of lard are left. Add the reserved masa and mix well. Add the sugar, salt, and queso fresco.
Cut the orange cheddar into batons - 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch by 3 inches - and set aside.
Put a heaping 1/4 cup of masa in the center of the wide base of a reserved corn husk - about 1/2-inch from the bottom. Add a baton of cheese and a strip of chile, then wrap one side of the corn husk over the masa, then the other, and finally fold in the thin end to form a packet; set it folded-side down on a tray. Repeat until all masa is used up.
Place about 2 inches of water in a large pot with a steamer insert. Starting in the middle, place the tamales - open end up - in the center until the steamer insert is full. Cover with the tamales with a plastic bag (or waxed paper), then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Tamales are done when the masa doesn't stick to the husk.
Serve them immediately. Uncooked tamales can be frozen for later; they take a bit longer to steam - perhaps 40-50 minutes.
Makes 8 dozen tamales.
* Dent corn has so high a moisture content that when dried its individual kernels collapse, giving each a dent. This moisture makes it juicy and suitable for eating “in the milk,” right from the cob, the form best known to most of us in summer. For this recipe, fresh white, rather than yellow, dent corn is used. “Dent” is a contrast to “flint” corn, which is so low in moisture content that when dried each kernel keep its rounded form. This type is suitable for grinding into corn meal, and is familiar to many as multicolored “Indian corn” used as door decorations in autumn.
** We used Hatch (New Mexico) chiles that I had roasted and frozen last winter.