By Meredith Hughes
Corrales’ Jane Butel, maven of American Southwest regional cooking, with the upcoming Christmas holiday in mind, has posted a “Tamale Rolling” video up front on her website, which can be accessed for a fee. Butel writes that she “grew up with a mother whose favorite food her entire life was tamales. The video we just completed shows all the hints, tips and tricks for perfect, fluffy tamales which I learned from her.”
Tamales, those corn meal and chile concoctions wrapped typically in cornhusks, date back thousands of years, where they were prepared and eaten by the indigenous peoples who first gathered and later farmed the many vegetables native to the Americas, corn, beans, tomatoes, and chiles among them.
Scholars think that Mesoamerica, a historical region and cultural area in North America, that extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, is likely where tamales may have begun their long history. California ethnohistorian Karl Taube writes that “Maya epigraphy supplies the most convincing evidence that the tamale constituted the principal maize food of the Classic Maya. It will be seen that tamales represented in Classic period texts and iconographic scenes were known widely by the Mayan term wa or wah, a word also signifying food or sustenance in a number of Mayan languages.”
So tamales = food! When you register for the Tamale Rolling video, for $49, Butel will send out four recipes for making both the tamales and the red chile sauce. Then you can order the products for making them on her website, http://www.janebutelcooking.com, including tamale masa, hot chile and mild red chile, if desired. As Butel puts it, “Tamale masa is a special coarser grind that yields fluffy tamales instead of greasy or hard tamales. And pure red chiles are needed for the fresh spicy clear flavor of the tamales and sauce.”
Along with rocking and rolling tamales, you can do a deeper dive into “All About Chiles.” This is a course focused solely on learning about chiles and how to cook with them. Butel launched her latest extensive on-line chile cooking course this fall, and now is taking the first 20 registrations for its 2021 iteration which will begin January 18. The cost? $650. Sign up via her website.
In a series of over 40 lectures by Butel, along with 150 kitchen-tested recipes, participants will use chiles in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Hints and tips for cooking with both green and red chiles will be completely spelled out. Also, Butel explores chiles’ healthful benefits, including “how to eat your way to losing weight and reverse aging.” Also ways to use chiles for “improving your heart’s health as well as your skin,” and the history and lore of chiles.
As Butel wrote in “Real Women Eat Chiles,” “Those of us who have been ‘exposed’ to chiles early in life are constantly on a quest for a daily chile fix. Those who have not had the opportunity to eat chiles have much less tolerance for capsaicin. However, it is never too late to start a daily habit of chile eating and develop one’s own ‘chile drive.’”
Each lesson is based on a written document. People who sign up view the text and then create the recipes. And, according to Butel, “there are choices — they don't have to prepare all of the recipes— only those they wish to. Plus they have an extra month beyond the end of the series to return to any classes they wish to and as often as they wish to. Each comes with a grocery and equipment list, as well as the recipes to select from.” The last two classes will be devoted to participants creating their own chile recipes.
Once you sign up, you will receive some chile and chile-related goodies: Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen, a comprehensive book on Southwestern cookery developed to back up her PBS series; a DVD on Bowl o’ Red Chile Party; eight ounces pure hot red chile powder; eight ounces pure mild red chile powder; eight ounces crushed caribe chile; eight ounces blue corn flour; four ounces crushed pequin quebrado chile; two ounces ground cumin; and two ounces ground Mexican oregano.”
While the course is not interactive, nor Zoom-based, Butel is setting up a chat room so that learners can ask questions. They also can feel free to call her at 505-243-2622.
Not all in Butel-land derives from the Americas. Her recipe for stollen, the traditional German Christmas bread which may have originated in Saxony, is best served up with champagne on Christmas morning, she urges. First traditionally made with oil, because of Advent restrictions by the Catholic Church on the use of butter, bakers pushed back, begged Papal circumvention, ranted, and then finally, 15th century Pope Innocent VIII relented, kind of. Finally, when Saxony became Protestant, (see Lutherans,) butter ruled.
You can access the recipe, from Jane Butel’s Freezer Cookbook, for free at http://www.janebutelcooking.com/post/great-deal-on-cooking-classes-for-2019-and-christmas-baking. Scroll down to take a gander through the following ingredients for two loaves, with butter up top: ¾ cup unsalted butter; ½ cup sugar; 1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon nutmeg; 1/2 teaspoon mace (if you do not have mace, substitute more nutmeg;) Grated rind of 1 lemon; Grated rind of ½ orange; 2 eggs; ¼ cup dark rum, brandy or sherry; 1 cup milk 1 package active dry yeast; ¼ cup warm water; 6 cups all-purpose flour, approximately; 1 cup raisins;1 cup currants (if unavailable, substitute more raisins;) ¼ pound each candied orange peel, lemon peel, and citron;1 slice candied pineapple; 1 cup toasted almonds; 1 ½ pounds candied whole red and green cherries; ¼ cup melted butter; Powdered sugar.
Or, skip stollen, but pop the champagne, and dream of taking a seven-day foodie trip hosted by Butel to Oaxaca, Mexico’s mole-rich gastro capital, whenever the pandemic eases up and makes three hands-on cooking classes, tours of historic sites, market tours and artisan visits possible.