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Tamales Open or Closed

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Have been doing some research on tamales. Some recipes call for the husk wrapped around the masa/filling open at one end, and others the husk wrappend shut on both ends. Any pros or cons to either method? Also, do you tie the tamale or just stack in the steamer close together?

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  1. I guess if you're having a big tamale party, you can do the easy way and not tie or wrap both ends.

    I've made them a few times and I wrap both ends and tie. (keeps it fresher if you freeze them.) The way you tie can indicate the filling if you use more than one kind. I have not had good luck with strips of husks so use kitchen string, instead.

    I use butter instead of lard in the masa -- so much tastier, IMO.

    1 Reply
    1. re: walker

      Green corn tamales made with butter and a tiny bit of sugar are heaven on earth!

    2. I make tamales a few times a year, and never tie them, or wrap both ends.

      I stand the tamales up (while filling the basket I use for a steamer I lay it on its side), and use a folded towel as my "lid" - I was instructed to do this by a woman who has decades of experience. Something about letting out just enough steam. Whatever the reason, they do turn out well. (West Texan chiming in to say... butter, in tamales? Not in this house! Good lard is important, imo.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: shanagain

        I make my tamales the same way. I have never used a towel as a lid, I always put corn husks over them, helps them steam. Green chilie and cheese tamales are the best.

        1. re: shanagain

          I have also been making tamales a few times a year for the past 30 plus years. I was also taught that lard is for the savory ones and a bit of butter in the sweet ones.
          I was originally taught to use a white flour sack, cheese cloth or a white dish towel under the tamale can lid. As time when on the recipes and suggestions, I found that lining the can with hojas / corn husk and covering the tops really helps with the clean up, steaming and flavor process. I fold the savory ones and leave one end open. The sweet ones are tied on both ends. Savory ones are placed in the basket standing up while the sweet ones are tossed in the basket.

          Oh and I never mix my tamales batches when steaming.

          I make beef and red chili, pork and red chili, cheese and green chili, pineapple and raisin and cinnamon and raisin. Once again, always steam your batches separately unless you want all the flavors to mix together.

        2. I make tamales a few times each year and always fold and tie back one end before putting them in the steamer. It helps hold them together when handling and makes a nicer presentation (IMO) on the plate. My guests often comment favorably on the little square knot I use to tie the narrow length or husk around the tamale to hold the folded end in place. I don't like closing both ends because, as they cook, some of the fat boils out of the open top as they steam in their vertical orientation on the steamer and I like the resulting texture that creates in the finished tamale better.
          I support the idea of preparing the massa with a portion of butter in the mix when preparing dessert tamales. It adds a level of flavor that can't be obtained from lard or other fats.