Mortar and Pestle

Mortar and Pestle

" The mortar and pestle were actually the first tools employed to make medicine. The earliest record of a mortar and pestle dates back to 1550 B.C. in the Ebers Papyrus. The Egyptians and Persians both used them for culinary and medicinal purposes. Olden Roman and Greek mortars were crafted out of stone and marble and were shallow and bowl-like, not deep and cup-like. Around the fourteenth century, bronze came to be used for making mortars and pestles. By the sixteenth century, the art was redefined and mortars were embellished with handles or knobs. Some even had spouts for easy pouring. During the renaissance period, artisans all over Europe produced mortars and pestles of different shapes, sizes, and designs from both bronze and wood. But bronze had a problem; with constant use its surface turns a dark brownish green. Around 1780, mortars and pestles made of biscuit porcelain were introduced. This material is acid resistant and can be cleaned easily affected by acids and is easily cleaned. This remains a popular kind even today. Today mortar and pestle sets are available in a variety of materials like you marble, granite, bronze, iron, or brass; hardwoods such as beech or maple; exotic hardwoods like ebony, lignum vitae, or orange, high-fired porcelain or glass...

A lot of people prefer grinding in the mortar and pestle instead of a food processor as this process releases the natural flavors of the spices, herbs etc more effectively. The food prepared with these ingredients is much tastier and aromatic. For people who enjoy the whole process of cooking which includes the preparation, the mortar and pestle is the ideal tool to have in the kitchen. A lot of people just like to own and use one as a tribute to the olden way.

Different versions of the mortars and pestles
The mortar and pestle has been around since prehistoric times and over the centuries it has taken many forms. Here are some of them:

  • Molcajete or the Mexican mortar and pestle: This version is commonly made of volcanic rock called basalt and both pieces can either have a very rough texture or a very smooth texture. The best quality molcajetes are made from basalt with the least sand content. It is used in the traditional manner for grinding spices and herbs and other mixtures.
  • Thai mortar and pestle: The Thai Pestle Mortar has been in use for centuries. This is a very functional tool. It has a smooth non porous interior that offers a great grinding surface. It is also very easy to clean. It's quite heavy so that makes it very stable. The only thing you have to be careful about is to put it on a sturdy work surface that will take its weight along with the pressure of the pounding.
  • Suribachi or Japanese mortal and pestle: The Japanese version of the mortar and pestle consists of an earthenware bowl which is glazed on the outside. There is a ridged pattern on the inside of the bowl to help the grinding process. The Suribachi has a wooden pestle called surikogi which makes sure that the ridges in the mortal are not damaged. In Japanese cuisine, the Pestle Mortar is commonly used to crush sesame seed as well as to make various pastes.
  • Indonesian Mortar and Pestle: This is quite similar in concept to the Indonesian stone mortar and pestle, but its appearance is very unique. Unlike other versions, this has a very shallow mortar called the cobek which is only about 1-2 inches deep. It has an unusual right angled pestle called ulek ulek that is moved back and forth while grinding. This is ideal for grinding ingredients into a paste.
  • Indian Mortar and Pestle or sil batta: The sil batta is a common tool found in a lot of Indian kitchens. The sil is a large, flat stone bed with ridged and the heavy stone batta is rolled back and forth over the material to be ground. This is ideal for making spice pastes and wet-grinding different spices into blends called masalas. Also a cup-shaped brass mortar and pestle or a stone himan dasta is also widely used in Indian homes
    Marble Mortar and Pestle: Marble, according to a lot of people is the best choice for a mortar and pestle. Marble does not absorb food odor, even from strong food like garlic. It is also very hard and provides an excellent grinding surface. It is very easy to clean and requires no special maintenance.
  • Wood Mortar and Pestle: The wood mortar and pestle a little less versatile than marble or stone. It is perfect for grinding seeds, grains, or rock salt. Foods with any sort of moisture should not be ground in a wooden mortar as this will spoil the wood in the long run.
  • Ceramic Mortar and Pestle: The ceramic mortar and pestle set is a brilliant choice. It does not stain and does not retain any food smells. It is also doesn't get damaged with acidic food."

    - courtesy of Mortar and Pestle.

Mortar and Pestle