I was determined to make tamales this summer but kept hearing that the corn piling up at the markets wasn’t the “right” kind. Sweet and bursting maybe, but not the starchy field corn needed to make traditional tamales. Though they can be made year round using cornmeal, masa harina or tamal flour specially made for the purpose, it seemed a shame to make the same tamales in July that I could have in December.
I was about to go the all-maseca route when I tried a Guatemalan tamal from a street vendor. Sweet, airy and topped only with crema and fresh cheese, it had the delicate flavor of the white summer corn crowding the farm stands. Known as tamales de elote in Mexico and Central America, humitas in the Andes, and green corn tamales in the States, these fresh corn tamales could be made with domestic corn and just a small amount of masa harina to approximate the taste and texture of starchier varieties. Though savory fillings can be added like shredded pork or chicken, they’re wonderful just on their own blended with fast melting cheese like Oaxaca or Monterey Jack and green onions. With every part of the corn, from the husks to the kernels to the cobs, imparting their own shades of flavor, you can savor everything the season has to offer while it lasts.