Pork Tamales

7 lb. pork picnic, skin on is preferable*
1 onion quartered
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
8 ancho chiles
corn husks
5 lb. bag masa preparada para tamales**
1 tbsp. paprika

*if skinless add 1 lb. grasa de puerco - cuts of pork fat
**this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Begin by cooking the pork in a crockpot overnight. Place the pork (and grasa if needed) in the crockpot and cover with water. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and turn on low, cook for 8 hours. I do this right before bed and wake up to a house full of pork smell, flip on the ventihood if you're lucky enough to have one (I don't) or crack a window.

The next morning pick through and remove the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use. Keep the crockpot on low and let the remaining fat and bones cook another 4 hours. Strain and refrigerate. The lard will rise to the top and the rich broth will be left below.

When you're ready to finish the filling set a pot of water to boil. Put the ancho chiles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over. Cover and allow to cool. Reserve the soaking liquid and remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Puree in a food processor with enough of the soaking water to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the finely shredded pork, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Add a little liquid if it seems dry, I added 1/2 c of the chile soaking liquid and 1/2 c broth.

Soak the husks in water for 30 minutes, add a heavy pot on top to keep them submerged.

To make the masa skim the lard from the chilled broth and measure, you will need 1 1/2 c of lard (can substitute any extra needed with commercial lard). Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and 2 c of warm broth. This may be done in a mixer (my KitchenAid will just barely hold it all) or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the salt and paprika and mix well. Taste the masa for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

Towel dry the husks and begin spreading, filling and rolling.

Thinly spread the masa with the backside of a spoon on the smooth side of the husk. You can either lay the husk flat on the table or hold it in your palm, whichever works for you. Don't spread the masa too far, you'll need enough room to be able to fold the end over to close the tamal. I spread each one to about 5" x 4".

Add about 2 tablespoons of pork to the center, roll and fold the end over. If you like tie a spare strip of husk around each tamal to keep it closed.
Now, spread, fill, roll, and repeat.

Place the tamales (open end up) in your biggest steamer.
Cover and place the steamer on the largest burner at the highest heat setting. Steam for about 2 hours until the masa is firm and cooked through. Test for doneness by removing the largest tamal and unrolling slightly. It should be cooked through and easily separated from the husk.

Remove the tamales and eat immediately or freeze dozens or half dozens in foil. Makes 100 tamales.
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