I have had a lot of requests for a post on tamales de elote, also known as sweet corn tamales. As it is already mid August and corn will be out of season soon, I knew I was running out of time. When I saw that my local Walmart had white corn yesterday, I realized there was no better time to do this post than now. So, due to popular demand, here is the post I know you have all been waiting for - my recipe for making delicious tamales de elote! This recipe was taught to me by a very sweet and godly woman named Senora Doris. Thank you, Doris, for letting me steal all of your secrets over the years, you have been a great blessing to me!
I must admit that this is truly one of my favorite Salvadoran eats, maybe because I love corn, or maybe because I love sweets even more. Although the name sounds daunting, once you make it, you'll see that tamales de elote are really pretty simple to make. In fact, I always feel that the most time consuming part of this recipe is really just picking out the corn.
When you pick your corn for tamales de elote, there are a few things you want to remember:
1. First, try to buy white corn if you can. White corn is sweeter and starchier than yellow corn, so it makes for better tamales. You can make corn tamales with yellow corn but white is the authentic way. Whenever I makes tamales de elote, I also make atol de elote, because the first few steps are exactly the same. You can view my recipe for atol de elote here: Atol de Elote!
2. Second, look for big ears of corn. The reason you want big ears is because you will use the leaves of the corn to steam the tamales in, and bigger corn ears means bigger corn leaves.
3. Third, do not strip the corn of its leaves at the store. I know this can seem appealing because it prevents the messy leaves and strands from dirtying up your kitchen, but if you strip the leaves with your hands in the store, you will rip the leaves and won't be able to use them to cook the tamales in. Once you get home, you will need to use a knife to chop the stems and then slowly peal off the leaves so that they do not rip. Fresh corn leaves are used as opposed to the dry ones because they give off more flavor to the corn when it is being steamed. If you can only find small corn, you can use the dried leaves, but the tamales wont be as flavorful and fresh tasting.
4. And fourthly, when buying ears of corn, its always smart to open the tips up a little so you can peak inside and see if the corn is still fresh. Fresh corn smells like corn! Any corn that has already started rotting at the top should be tossed back into the pile.
I feel that there are two essential secret ingredients in this recipe that can make or break your tamales if you do not use them - The first is using cornmeal, which helps the corn stick together, and the second is using a lot of butter, which gives white corn a phenomenal flavor and helps accentuate the sweet flavors of the corn. Without these two ingredients, tamales de elote are just not that tasty in my opinion.
This recipe uses 10 ears of white corn and makes about 15 tamales.
Tamales de Elote:
10 large ears of fresh white corn
4 sticks of salted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups of granulated white sugar, depending on how sweet you like your tamales
2.5 cups of cornmeal flour, can be yellow or white or both
1 1/2 tbsp. of salt
Leaves of the corn, or, if you do not have this, you can use the dried corn leaves after soaking them in water.
-Using a large chef knife, chop stem off of each ear of corn. If you don't chop the stem off completely, you'll have trouble pealing the leaves easily.
-Carefully peel leaves from the corn, being careful not to rip them in half. You will mostly use the most outer leaves with are firmer than the leaves that are closest to the corn.
-Once you have about 40-50 large outer leaves, you can quickly strip the inner leaves and strands off of the corn.
-Rinse all ears of corn to remove any dirt, bugs, or leftover strands.
-Using a smaller knife, begin to shave off the corn kernels from the bone of the corn into a big bowl - you may want to reference the first picture at the bottom of this post to understand what I am talking about.
-Once you have removed the corn kernels from all the corn, blend the kernels in batches in a blender, blending until corn is completely pureed, and pour pureed corn into another big bowl.
-To the pureed corn, add all of the melted butter and stir until completely mixed.
-Next add the salt, sugar and the corn meal, stirring again until thoroughly mixed.
-Place 3 spoonfuls of batter on the fat part of one of the corn leaves. Fold the sides and the top narrow part over the batter so that you have a square.
-Cover this square with another leaf, folding again tightly.
-Wrap tamale with aluminum foil and and place tamale in the tamale steamer.
-Repeat the three previous steps until you have no more batter left. Steam tamales in a tamale steamer or a large metal pot filled half way with water.
Cook tamales on medium for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The way to know that your tamales are done is that the leaves will turn yellow and puff out twice their original size.
-Let tamales cool so they can harden and form shape.
-Serve warm tamales with Salvadoran sour cream or regular sour cream will do if you don't have any.