Pork fares best in the freezer if packaged with freezer-friendly materials like waxed paper, aluminum foil, or heavy-duty plastic bags.
Wrap any meat tightly so that air does not escape and freeze at 0°F. Generally, fresh cuts of pork can last up to six months, while ground pork can last up to three.
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Pork is easiest to thaw when placed in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Small roasts will take three to five hours per pound, while larger roasts can take up to seven hours per pound. Thawing ground pork depends entirely on the thickness of its packaging.
It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork, but its cooking time may take 50 percent longer. Frozen pork should not be cooked in a slow cooker.
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Sealed pork products can typically last in the fridge for two to four days, with ground pork having a slightly shorter shelf life at one to three. Ham or other smoked pork products like bacon can be stored for up to a week, though this only applies to products that aren’t vacuum sealed or prepared with preservatives. The latter can obviously last a lot longer.
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Finding one masa dough recipe to use for several different tamale fillings can be difficult. This basic recipe yields a light, fluffy dough that can be used for practically any tamale you can come up with.
What to buy: Lard, or rendered pork fat, gives masa dough its distinct piggy flavor. You can make your own or buy it at Latin markets; you’ll find it in the refrigerated or frozen section. Vegetable shortening makes a fine substitute if you are vegetarian or can’t find lard.
Masa harina is dried, powdered masa (dried corn that has been cooked and soaked in limewater, then ground while wet); we like Maseca, an instant slaked cornmeal that is useful in making tamales. It’s widely available in Latin markets or the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores, and yields consistent results. You can also purchase freshly made masa dough at many Latin markets.
Game plan: The masa dough can be kept frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.
This recipe was featured as part of our Tamales for the Holidays project.