I host a wreath-making party every year. Sometime around Thanksgiving, either before or after, depending on the calendar. One of the favorites, (3 times?), both in Arizona and Texas, is a tortilla wreath. These are simple, fun and always a huge hit. For each wreath, you’ll need:
- A wire coat hanger that is neither too lightweight and flimsy (easy to shape, but will loose the circular shape when the tortillas are added), nor too heavy (too difficult to take apart and shape into a circle), and preferably not white
- About 3 dozen corn tortillas. I almost always use the regular size, though tiny ones can make a cute, smaller wreath. In the Southwest, we also get to choose between yellow and white, and it’s purely a preference thing. I kind of like the gold color of the yellow ones once they are fried
- High-sided frying pan and tongs
- Vegetable oil for fyring
- Chiles. I usually use dried New Mexico or Anaheim chiles because they are inexpensive and are a beautiful burgundy color. As you’ll see, you can use fresh as well (though they are better left outside if you have fruit flies in the neighborhood), which can make a festive combination of red and green.
- Ribbon, raffia or other materials for creating a bow. You’ll want something because it will tend to hide the coat hanger at the top
- Some pliers, to work on the hanger
- A skewer
- Paper towels and newspaper for draining
- A dish drainer if you have one available
The process is simple. Prepare your coat hanger by untwisting the top (do not cut the ends off, that’s how you’ll put it all back together), and then shaping it into as close to a circle as you can.
Set up your workstation. We find that the best thing is to lay out some newspaper, topped with some paper towels, and then an old-fashioned dish strainer (not something fancy like wood – it will clean up, but you don’t want something that the oil will harm).
Next, heat the oil in a deep frying pan, preferably one that you use for that kind of thing – it gets messy, and can be difficult to clean if you fry a lot of tortillas. Once that’s started, get the tortillas out. In the center of each tortilla (I do this with a stack of around 6, just to make it faster), push the skewer through to create a hole. You can also cut one with the small hole of a cake decorating tip, or even a straw, but I prefer the skewer, since it’s small and tends to make the tortillas easier to thread onto the wire. It does not work to put the holes in once the tortillas have been fried.
Once you have your tortillas fried, you can start creating your wreath. (of course, if you have a group, you can do a more assembly-line style and take turns frying the tortillas and building your wreath). Simply string the fried tortillas onto the hanger-wire, alternating with chiles or any other embellishments you choose.
Keep stringing the tortillas and chiles until the wire is very, very full. It will have a tendency to settle together and collapse a bit, so you want to make sure you have enough.
These make great, inexpensive gifts, and are a fun choice for a southwestern decoration. The one caution about hanging the wreath indoors – the oil can migrate (particularly when it’s just been created) to a wall that it’s resting against, or even drip on the floor if the tortillas were not completely drained, so beware, and plan accordingly. The wreath will last for a couple of years, if it’s not broken too much, but don’t plan on much longer than that. Of course, they are easy and fun to make, so it’s not a lot of trouble to re-create one if you need to.