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My Great American Road Trip – Mississippi

August 17, 2020

I’ve never been to Mississippi, I’ve never even been close to going but it holds a soft spot in my heart. It was, of course, the first state I learned to spell and the only state I can spell backwards with out thinking – I pee pee I ess ess I ess ess I am.

Hot tamales are a way of life in the Mississippi delta, a place that sounds so romantic that I have to stop myself from just jumping in a car and driving there now. They are smaller than the traditional Latin tamales (about the size of a fat finger) and very spicy and they are everywhere in the Mississippi delta. Don’t believe me – check out this tamale map.

I failed at making tamales that look good, but I succeeded where it mattered – they were delicious!

The key for tamales is that they are steamed in dry corn husks. I thought I might have to  get some corn and wait for the husks to dry, but you know what, you can just them at Target. You soak the husks in water for a couple hours so they are soft – you can also boil them if you have ones that aren’t hermetically sealed because they often have little creatures living in them.

First you have to make the steaming liquid which is a can of tomato sauce, spiced up with cayenne, chili powder, cumin (which I’m learning makes everything better) and a couple cups of water. Bring that to a boil and then set aside for later.

Nearly every recipe I found for tamales said “start with 10 pounds of pork.” That is one of the problems with this project, there aren’t a lot of recipes for one. I decided to skip the meat, I’ve had a lot lately and go with refried black beans. This, I would find out, was not the best idea, but I off I went.

I mixed the beans with chopped onions and peppers, more cayenne, chilis, and cumin, and tomato sauce. I should have added some hole beans, because this was not quite study enough, but live and learn.

You take your mixture and make a little cigar or fat finger with it and then roll it in corn meal – I used the last of a bag I bought in the Great Smokies on a trip to see the eclipse.  After it is rolled in corn meal, you put it in a corn husk and roll that tight. Because they are small, a serving is like 10 or more of these buggers, so most recipes make about 30 of them. Once they’re all rolled, you layer them in a pot, cover with the steaming liquid and simmer for at least two hours.

It smelled so good! That spicy tomato-ing warmth that tickles your nose a bit. I couldn’t wait to eat them. The traditional these are served in the Delta is piled on a plate with saltines and a beer, and since I am a (sort of) purist, that is how I served them to myself.
Unknown-5The beans had leaked out a bit in many of them, so they were a sort of soft spicy bean dip on the crackers, but oh, was it tasty. In the ones with more corn meal, they resembled what I think they were meant to be.

These were hard to make, but I’m going to try again, because I’m pretty sure they’re worth it when done right!

Now I’m gonna go listen to some Tanya Tucker!

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One Comment
  1. Susan Anderson permalink

    can’t wait to try them myself. Won’t go with 10 lbs of pork, but maybe I’ll try when I have leftovers.

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