Mortar & Pestles:
You're in control of the grind with a mortar and pestle set. It is your manual food processor, able to grind just about any type of food that will fit in the bottom of the mortar. And because of the minimal friction, aromas don't burn off in the grinding, like they do with a food processor or electric grinder.
Brief History of the Mortar and Pestle
A mortar is a bowl shaped container made of a hard wood, marble, pottery, or stone. The pestle is a bat shaped tool that is used to grind inside the mortar (bowl) and pulverize grains, herbs, and other food substances as well as medicines.
Italian frescoes of the 15th Century show Mortars and Pestles in use by Apothecaries (ancient Pharmacists). The Molcajete, or Mexican version of the mortar and pestle appears in Mexican pre-history in the Tehuacán Valley, as early as the discovery of our hybridized present-day corn, 6,000 years ago.
How it is used
Place the substance to be ground inside the mortar (bowl). Sit the pestle on top of the substance and apply downward pressure, then grind using a circular motion. This action forces the substance against the surface of the bowl and pulverizes it.
The grinding process releases the oils, and flavor essence of the substance. When done carefully you will produce a product that is more flavorful than a product prepared in a food processor. Depending on the food you are preparing the process can be quite laborious. If you enjoy cooking, using a mortar and pestle will simply be part of your "craft" of food preparation. If you just need to "get the job done", reach for the food processor.
Molcajete y Tejolote
[mohl-kah-HEH-teh ee teh-hoh-LOH-teh]
The Mexican term for "MORTAR AND PESTLE" — molcajete being the mortar, tejolote the pestle. The black, rough texture of both pieces is a result of the fact that they're made of basalt (volcanic rock). They are used in the traditional manner for grinding spices and herbs and other mixtures.
According to an article by by Diego Delgado, "The word molcajete (mortar) derives from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs: “molli” (seasoning or sauce) and “caxitl” (bowl). The word tejolote (pestle) also derives from Nahuatl: “tetl” (stone) and “xolotl” (doll)."
Foods traditionally prepared in the molcajete include salsas and mole's (mohl-LAY), as well as guacamole. It is also used for grinding chilies, garlic or other herbs and spices for food preparation.
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