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greetings - thanks for visiting my site!

newer new news...

Well, this is it. The spice store has made it's last gasp & is shutting down. Thanks for your support. If you have any requests or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards to all,
Elliott

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Important Notice:


6/7/2010:

We're back. I'm still trying to re-figure/ streamline the Spice Selections to make it all more sensible to you and feasible to us. Truth is, y'all just don't use the spices and seasonings as much as I do (despite that, as with all spice & seasoning ingredients, they are best if used within a six month period and not after). That's understandable, but it makes having an online business impractical, is all. Over the course of many months I've been considering ways to make the spices more appealing to first time as well as repeat buyers. I've sought to solve several problems with the product, including:

The tendency for the spice seasonings to clump - I've switched suppliers and am now using ingredients which are ground finer and have less tendency to clump. I've been satisfied with the results and I hope that you have as well.

Packaging: The metal tins I'm using are, at best, a compromise in order to ship the spices as well as make them appealing and functional. When I initially started selling spices back in 2005, I was using 4 oz. glass jars. People really like the jars over the tins, and while the tins cost more, they are easier to ship without worrying that you will end up with a package of seasoned glass shards on your end.

Packaging #2: I have been considering losing the tins in favor of simple, functional, utilitarian plastic bags. Why? I have a lot of plastic bags in stock intended for refills of spices, and that just doesn't happen. If I switch to using the plastic bags, I could probably increase the amount of spice seasoning per order while decreasing the cost of each item as well as shipping. How about that?

Packaging #3: Wouldn't ya know, now they are saying that plastic is EVIL and DOES NOT LIKE YOU or YOUR FAMILY. Oh, plastic - we lived with so many hopes for you that must now go unfulfilled. It was sweet while it lasted.

Scrapping the catalog: That's right. Another serious consideration I've had for some time now is to scrap all of my current product and sell only certain items. What I have been selling over the past several years would essentially be retired. "What will you replace it with?", you ask? Well, let me tell you - I've been thinking of starting a whole new line of extremely hot and spicy seasonings and bbq rubs, so that I can rename it THE BURN WARD. That's right. I don't joke about such things. We're talking (or rather mumbling, since we've been steadily searing off the nerves on our tongues) serious Scoville Units here. What is your vote?

Spice of the Month Club: While it is still a serious consideration, it has never generated enough interest to convince me to do it. Maybe. Drop me a line and tell me you'd support it if I made it available. No, not just you, I mean some of those other people out there who haven't piped up yet.

Gift Sets: Of course - there will always be gift sets, as well as sales, like the ever popular buy 2 get 1 free deal.

Cost: Oy... one could make a living, if only they'd let you - ya know what I mean? Over the past 12 to 18 months, cost just got weird, particularly because import/ export costs that bear on the availability of ingredients for the spices and seasonings. I try to keep that old carbon foot print as small as possible - I've even considered binding my carbon foot to a child's size 2 - but there are certain ingredients that just are not easily available in our area of Western Massachusetts. Things like fresh Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lemongrass which, the last time I had to purchase a bulk of each I was told that I would need to pre-order it as it comes from places with sunnier climates, yet it is also affected by state restrictions which prevent growing these plants in proximity of delicate citrus agricultural regions. So - I temporarily stopped making the Green Thai Curry, which needs a good amount of each to get the flavor perfect. I know - it makes me sad, too, not to have my Green Thai Curry.

So that's the short of the long on the matter. Write me and let me know what your vote is on any or all of the intertwining topics.

And thanks for your support, your patience and your friendship - I really do appreciate it!

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This blog is a companion site to my online business at emburke.etsy.com where I sell unique spice and seasoning blends. I will be featuring recipes that use the spice blends here, but you can easily adapt them to suit your own needs. Also, my spice and seasoning blends are interchangeable - you can easily use one blend in place of another to get a different creative result or you can play it safe and stick to the recipe.

I have a variety of spice & seasoning blends available for purchase here - the perfect compliment for your meat & vegetarian entrées or side dishes. Each of my spice blends are made from fresh, organic spices purchased locally and are ground & blended by myself. They can be used as a dry or wet rub, as a marinade or sauce, or as a seasoning to add a little extra flavor.

Also, if you have any ideas, suggestions or challenges - send them on to me and I'll place them on the site as well.

Each quarter a portion of all sales from this site will be given to support a local charity in Western Massachusetts.

I think you will enjoy them as much as I do. Please spread the word!

Thanks, Elliott

P.S. - I'll have some other items available here in the near future.
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What would you like to find here?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

good golly tamales

I love tamales. Cheryl loves tamales. I don't know of anyone who doesn't love tamales and, if by some strange cultural fluke they grew up without having ever heard the word tamale - like possibly being abandoned to the wilds of civilization in North Dakota or Calgary, Canada - they are soon instant converts to the humble yet soulfully sizzling delicacy that we transplanted South Westerners love.


Tamales in New England can be as rare as a truly warm, sunny day. As popular as traditional Mexican food has become over the last half century, with suitable imitations popping up all over the Atlantic seaboard, many - most - have yet to try and learn how to make the culinary delight that is the tamale. I can't really blame them. Tamales can be very labor intensive, which makes them almost pointless to make save for the reward that comes from making a good meal from scratch and keeping up a tradition that may well die out in the years to come. It is a lot of work to make them for a single evening's meal and is best to just throw yourself into the fray and make enough tamales to last until Christmas; if you are a restaurant, well, why put yourself through the torture unless you have a crackerjack prep crew or a gaggle of relatives that could serve as your own highly esteemed sweat shop?

Yesterday was just such a day. I decided to make tamales for dinner last night which, due to the work involved, required mentally preparing through the previous week and then scouting out particular items needed from local ethnic markets. Thank God for Trans World Food Market. They had the dry corn husks that I needed to tightly wrap the dough and filling in.

I haven't made tamales in about ten years, when we made them for a limited run special at Daddy-O's Bohemian Café. Before that, it had been about twenty years since, when my mom would get the sudden urge to make homemade tamales and I would help out.

So, then - without further ado yet much further a dough (sorry, I can't resist a really bad pun, even if it falls flat in print) - here is the game plan for making tamales.

Dried Corn Husks - use plenty to cover your needs, approximately 2-3 each

Soak the Corn Husks over night in water, then drain in a colander. Leave them moist so that they remain pliable to fold, spindle or mutilate. Yes, it will be OK.

Filling:

2 Lbs. of Meat or other filling - I used Pork in this one
1 medium Onion, chopped
3 Bay Leaves
1 Tb. + Olive Oil
1 Tb. of Mexican Sazón Spice Seasoning (or some other similarly awesome seasoning)
1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1 Tb. Tomato Paste
Plenty of water
Salt
Pepper

In a large skillet add the olive oil and bring to medium - medium high heat. Season the pork with your seasoning, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and then gently place them in the skillet so that they don't splatter hot oil on you. Sear each side until they are browned, add the chopped onions and cook them until translucent and then add enough water to just cover them. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, then return the heat to medium low, cover and let cook for approximately two to three hour, occasionally checking the water level to make sure that the meat stays covered. At any point after an hour or two you can add the tomato paste. Just make sure that the water doesn't thicken too much from it or reduce. If it does, add more water. You only want the water to be a little thick. After an couple of hours the meat will soften and easily fall apart to the touch. At this point go ahead and shred the meat and mix it all together.

Dough:

1 Lb. (4 Cups) of Masa Harina (Yellow Corn Flour)
3+ Cups of Water
1/4 Lb. Butter or Shortening (or 1/8 Lb. of each)
3 Tb. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt

Place the corn flour in a large, dry flat skillet or pan and turn the heat to medium. You want to lightly toast the flour to bring out the flavor of the corn, so carefully stir it as it is warming up. Remove the corn flour to a large bowl. You can use the pan to make the masa dough if it is large enough to hold double or triple the amount of the corn flour. Place the butter or shortening in the pan with 3 cups of water, sugar and salt, then bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and gradually stir in the corn flour, adding more water as needed, The mixture should be well incorporated, without clumps of flour, and should be pliable to use, like Play-Doh.

Making the Tamales:

Using a clean flat surface, such as a counter top if your kitchen happens to have one (most good houses come with them these days, making it convenient and without the hassle of renting one for special occasions), lay out two or three good sized corn husks. They should be damp but not wet. Try layering them one half way over the other, making sure there is enough room to spread out approximately 1/4 cup of dough into a 4" x 7" rectangle. Then place 1/4 cup of dough and spread it with a spatula, a fork, your fingers - whatever you have handy - until it makes a 4" x 7" rectangle with the dough about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Place 1/2 to 2 Tbs. of filling lengthwise in the center, leaving a border of dough around it. Gently fold the sides of the corn husks up so that the dough covers the filling. I found that it worked best to turn the sides up first to form the shape of the tamale, then wrap one side of the corn husk over first, then the other side; next fold the ends over and then lay the tamale down upon the folded sides. You can leave them that way if you prefer - the weight of the tamale should be enough to hold it closed in place while you cook them - but the traditional way is to tie them like a package using string or thin strips of corn husk. Don't worry if you have problems folding them into a rectangular package shape. The dough should mold to the form of the corn husk as you fold it into place. If they come out on the small side, that's OK also - you'll just have to serve extra!

Cooking your Tamales:

You will need a pot capable of steaming food and large enough to hold the amount of tamales you wish to cook. We don't actually have one, so I place a 9" round cooling rack in our large braising pot, and it works fine.

Place the tamales evenly on the steamer tray with enough water to cover the bottom under it. Cover the pot and bring the water to boiling, then lower it to medium/ medium low. The tamales shouldn't take long to cook - about 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve hot with your favorite sauce and salsa. Might I recommend Roasted Tomatillo Sauce, Spicy Guacamole and Chipotle Salsa?

Suggestions:

You can add grated cheese to the filling or directly on top of your tamales. Add sour cream, diced chili peppers or anything else that you are prone to placing on top of tacos, nachos or other Mexican food. Have a beer or two. Cut loose & go crazy - who knows when you are going to get the urge to make tamales again. Just be sure to make plenty and share them with your family and friends.

No comments:

Read what some nice people have to say about my spices:"

Some mornings, I just stand in the kitchen alone and sniff Elliotts' spice. Then I'm somehow ready to start my day. And, oh yes, Elliott's spice IS great for cooking. Your eating habit will literally get "spiced up"."~ Tomoko Deeney (TADworks)

"I’ve almost never finished a full jar of spice and I’ve used several jars of Elliott’s spices in a matter of months. They are very unique and full of different flavors without being too salty or overpowering. They get my highest recommendation. Try them and you will love them."~ Keith Brisebois

"Elliott’s Green Thai is the most amazing spice... perfect for tacos, fish, chicken or beef. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to cook without it!"~ Chrissie Henry

"I hadn't really explored the world of spices until this mixture somehow found its way into my cupboard. I had lived a fairly plain sea salt and cracked pepper food life, until this came along. I enjoy the 'kick' it has on my palate. And still the blend lends itself to good eatin'."~ Rachel Wilson

"Having a jar of Elliott's spice blends in my cupboard I feel as if I have been instantly transformed into a fantastic chef. Dishes I would normally feel intimidated to try - Curried Cauliflower, Tandori Chicken, Morrocan Lamb Stew - now feel within reach. Thank you, Elliott for opening up a whole world, literally, of fabulous food!"~ Alicia Pritt

"Filled a void in my life."~ Elizabeth (from Russia)