In terms of the tamale making, I have leveled up.
My annual holiday tamale making session was going to be short and sweet this year. Last year, I had bought a few pork shoulders from the store, but was overwhelmed by how much they smelled like a pork processing plant…indescribably unwholesome. No more. Farm raised meat is definitely pricey, but I wasn’t going to buy from the grocery store again. A smaller batch of tamales would be easier, and more affordable considering the high end ingredients I wanted to use. I decided a farm raised hog’s head was going to provide the meat for my tamales this year.
I had never cooked a hog’s head before. But, what the heck, it’s a great conversation starter (Well, hello! Nice to meet you! You will never guess what I just pulled out of my oven!)
My friends Mark and Kelly raise hogs, and I was pretty surprised how inexpensive a hogs head is. Funny, they are less popular than you would think, so therefore cheap and always available (the hog’s heads that is, not Mark and Kelly.) And since this hog was farm raised on a diet of forage and peanuts, the meat was sure to be succulent and sweet. I literally skipped back to my truck with my pig head in a plastic bag, proud of my purchase.
I have a big 20 quart water bath canner, dark blue enameled with a wire jar-holding cage that lifts out It was perfectly adaptable to boiling a whole pig’s head, so that is what I used. A quick rinse, then into the pot it went. Of course, the head was slightly lifted off the bottom of the pot by the wire cage, which prevented the pork flesh from burning. I filled the pot with water, added a little salt, and brought it to a boil. After about 3 hours, I figured the hog’s head was fully cooked. I lifted the cage out of the water, and allowed the head to cool in a shallow pan.
Once the meat was stripped from the bones, there was 3 lbs. of meat and 2 lbs. of fat, perfect for a small batch of tamales. I shredded the meat, and cleaver chopped it. The meat was silky and unctuous, with a sweet, farm aroma.
Tamales are the perfect dish to get everyone in the kitchen to cook together. Be sure to check out my Tamales Nortenos Recipe to get the fun started. Happy Cooking!