Open Air Cooking in the Campo: Tamales

Here is the latest version of our Cooking in the Campo series, tamale-making with Doña Juana, using our new Covid Protocol. Please make sure to go over our protocol and to only reserve an experience if you´re in complete agreement with the terms.

Juana and her family dedicate themselves to cultivating a mixture of corns, beans, and squash, known locally as “la milpa”.  Their property is close enough to Oaxaca´s city center to make it an easy venture, although you´ll enjoy a whole different scene than you´ll experience in the city´s colonial streets.  On their property, there´s an abundance of air, fruit-bearing trees, a few dogs, a whole lot of chickens, and a rowdy turkey who likes to make his presence known.

It took us a whole experience in itself to make all of the tamales and decide which we´d prepare during this experience.  Out of the various recipes that Doña Juana prepares often for her family, we narrowed down our first experience to four: the quintessential black bean tamal, the “chepil” tamal (a locally-grown herb with a distinct flavor quite typical in certain Oaxacan cuisine), the tamal de rajas, cooked with strips of just-the-right-amount-of-spice pepper, and the pumpkin flower and “quesillo” (Oaxacan string cheese) tamal.  

What to Expect

Step One: Read our Covid Protocol. If you agree with these terms and practices, write to us and request this experience, telling us how many people are in your small group and what your dates of availability are.  Let us know where we’re staying so that we can arrange to pick you up on the agreed-upon date. Juana generally does not work on Saturdays but is flexible throughout the week.

Step Two: Once we’ve found a date that works for our host and for your group, we will send you a Paypal request for a deposit for your experience. This deposit is non-refundable. In case of an emergency with our hosts, we will do our best to reschedule with you at a mutually-convenient time. If that is not possible, we will refund your deposit.

Step Three: We will pick you up at the pre-arranged time and place and bring you to Juana´s home to enjoy your experience. 

You´ll take a tour of their property and get to meet the animals, and then you´ll get to work preparing your tamales.  Juana has already done us the favor of heading to the mill to have the corn ground so that this experience can be nestled into a single day.  She´ll go through the preparation process with you, step-by-step, and you´ll get to practice making each of the four types of tamales.

We´ll have some “agua de sabor” and continue on our tamal-making journey until we get to the point where they boil to perfection over an open-stove while we feast on some extra tamales that Juana has prepared specially for us.  She´ll also have some homemade sauces to bathe them in, depending on your tolerance for spice! Your handmade tamales will be ready by the time that lunch is over, so that you can bag them up and take them with you, although they are one souvenir that most likely won´t even make it home.

Experience Includes

    • A tour of Doña Juana´s property, during which she will explain the importance of the “milpa” (corn/beans/squash planting) and show the stages of the milpa´s growth, depending on the season.

    • Personalized instruction regarding how to make four locally-renowned types of tamales.

    • A break for fresh “agua de sabor”.

    • The opportunity to cook your tamales over an open stove in great company.

    • A delicious lunch that will leave you licking your fingers.

    • A chance to escape the urbanity of Oaxaca and experience village life.

    • Four (one of each flavor) of your handmade tamales to take home.

    • The opportunity to buy extra tamales (if you´re a local, you know they freeze well).

    • Roundtrip transportation following our Covid Protocol

Logistics and Cost

Time Involvement – 4-5 Hours, Typically 10am – 3pm

Transportation – Transportation is provided from your home, hotel or a central location to Juana´s home (and back).

Costs and Minimums  1450 MXN pp.  Children are welcome to attend. Ages 5 – 12 receive a discounted price of 700 MXN. Children 5 and under are free.

Children are welcome to participate in this experience, although they are the responsibility of their accompanying adults. This experience involves cooking over and open flame, although the cooking area is secluded from the tamal-preparation and dining area. This host family has four children for your children to play with (so guests who do not appreciate children are encouraged to reserve an alternate experience).

Additional: Bathroom facilities are available, though rustic (outhouse style). If you´re picky in that respect, we suggest you go beforehand or check out one of our more centrally-located experiences in Oaxaca City.

There is a minimum of 2 people for this experience.

If you are a single person and would like to schedule this experience, you are welcome to fill the two-person minimum or to contact us to put the experience on our calendar so that we can get a small group together.