03 January 2007


As luck would have it, shortly after I finished my first blog, my mother-in-law (Carmen) sent me up the last of the Christmas pasteles. Pasteles are somewhat similar to Mexican tamales, but instead of corn for the massa we use Puerto Rican staples.

Pasteles are incredibly time consuming to make, and are therefor typically served only around the holidays, especially Christmas and Three Kings Day. This particular batch was made by Carmen's niece, who lives half a mile up the mountain from us.

Pasteles start with the massa, or paste. This is made up of grated green bananas, yautia, platanos, calabaza, and potato. All of these (except the potato) come from our property, and are our contribution to the feast. You then add achiote for color.You smear some of the massa onto a banana leaf into a rough rectangle, and spoon some pork filling into the middle. The pork filling has green olives with pimentos, tomato, garlic, garbanzos, and spices. You then fold up the banana leaf so that the massa completely encloses the filling, then tie the leaf with string.

You cook the pasteles in a pot of slowly-boiling water for about half an hour. They freeze beautifully (unwrap them first).

Here is a reasonable recipe at Rican Recipes. It's slightly different from what we do, but close enough, except they suggest using a food processor to save time. I tried that with my trusty 11-cup, and it's now in Cuisinart heaven.

You either love pasteles or you hate them. I love them; my Puerto Rican wife hates them. I can't wait until next year.

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