This afternoon I had a cooking lesson with Josefa and her niece. We made tamalitos - little tamales - with chipilín, a perennial legume that is a nutritious food staple here but considered an invasive weed in the US. Too bad - it's delicious! The leaves and flowers are separated from the stems, which are discarded.
Families stock dried corn and save the husks. The husks are brittle so they are soaked in water prior to use; it is also possible to use green corn husks but they are not as readily available here.
After husking, the dried corn is removed from the cob, soaked in water, and taken to the neighborhood corn mill to be made into masa.
This is the same masa that is used for tortillas, but water, salt, and oil are added to achieve the right taste and consistency for tamalitos and then it's kneaded for a few minutes.
Josefa flattened the prepared masa on the piedra - grinding stone - and covered it with chipilín. She kneaded it in, added more, and kneaded until it was consistently dispersed.
Each tamalito has about as much masa as a tortilla. The masa is shaped, wrapped in a soaked corn husk, and placed in a large pot that has been lined with more corn husks.
The pot is half filled with water and set over a wood fire.
After about 50 minutes they are removed from the pot and placed in a basket.
In our case they were served with salsa, refried beans, Uruguayan chorizo, and vegetables. DELICIOUS!