One of the best tools to have in any kitchen is the mortar and pestle. It is a useful gadget for grinding up curry spices, mash ginger, homemade spice mixtures, garlic, and chillies. Whenever you acquire a new mortar and pestle, there is the issue of small particles getting their way into your recipes.
Possibly you are wondering how one can prevent these gritty particles from gaining access to your food. Seasoning and proper cleaning is the surest way to solve this problem. In this article, we guide you on how to season, clean, and use the mortar and pestle gadget to produce grit-free recipes.
Preparation: Pick the right mortar and pestle
In order to effectively use a mortar and pestle to step up your cooking process, you need to begin by choosing the best mortar and pestle made of right material that will suit your cooking needs.
These tools are usually made in matching sets of a bowl-like mortar and a wand-like pestle. The pestle is shaped in a curved way to facilitate smoother grinding.
Mortar and pestle can be made from stone, wood, or ceramic materials and it is important to choose one that suits your personal preferences and culinary needs.
The ceramic option is great for grinding fine spices even though they are quite fragile. The wood option is quite durable but is slightly porous making it susceptible to staining.
The stone mortar and pestle have the capacity for fine grinding. The only challenge with this option is that if it is not properly conditioned, fine stone particles are likely to make their way into your spices. Choosing the right material helps in preventing the tainting of your spices during grinding.
Apart from the materials, you also have to look at the size of the gadget you require. There are various sizes that suit the number and amount of contents that need to be crushed. Whether you are grinding spices, nuts, or seeds, choose the size that best handles your quantities and is within your budget.
How to season a mortar and pestle
When you acquire a brand new kitchen gadget like mortar and pestle, it is necessary to properly cure it especially if it is made from rock materials. Unseasoned mortar and pestle will release tiny and gritty rock particles when rubbed. This leaves tiny holes in the surface where dirt and debris can easily get trapped.
- The first stage of seasoning involves rinsing with water. This helps in eliminating the little bits of grit and any dust components that may be settled on the mortar and pestle. You can do this by either running water over the gadget for several times or submerging it in a sink filled with water.
- You can also leave the gadget soaked in water over the night. A garden hose or a water pressure washer can be used to spray water around the gadget for about five minutes. Whichever method you choose, you should avoid using soap or even soapy water.
- The second stage involves the use of water and white rice. In this step, you grab a small quantity of rice and place it in a mortar before adding a small amount of water. The rice used in this process should be white enough to ensure that any form of debris can be easily spotted.
- Having placed the rice in the mortar, the pestle should be used to make circular grinding motions around the mortar. The rice needs to be worked up and around the entire surface of the mortar including those porous surfaces. You may want to have extra hands to assist you in this process.
- The ground rice will turn into a grey-like paste which indicates the presence of tiny specks of dirt. The rice grinding process helps in pulling out the trapped debris and dirt particles. To avoid leaving the trapped components on the pestle, you have to keep twisting, turning and flipping it throughout the grinding process.
- After the grinding process use a clean brush to remove the grey paste on both the mortar and the pestle. Place them in a sink and wash off all the remains components of the paste before placing another set of rice and water. Repeat the grinding, brushing, and washing processes until the rice retains its white color.
How to use a mortar and pestle
The first step you need to take before using the mortar and pestle tool is to read and understand the processing instructions for your recipe.
If there are any items within the recipe that needs to be ground into a powder or paste, then this becomes the right tool for the job.
Some of these items include peppercorns, herb seeds, spice seeds, spice leaves, fresh herbs, nuts, rice, plant seeds, sea salt, and hard candies.
- Start by placing the raw ingredients that require pounding into the mortar. You should ensure that the contents don’t surpass the 1/3 full mark so as to ensure efficient grinding. If you have many spices and a smaller bowl, then you may opt to grind them in batches.
- Once the ingredients have been placed in the bowl, use the pestle to grind it to the desired consistency levels. Use one hand to hold the mortar and the other hand to move the pestle. The pestle should be twisted against the ingredients to facilitate their grounding against the sides and the bottom of the mortar.
- For even grinding of all your ingredients, mix and grind them continuously until they achieve the desired coarseness or fineness levels. Various grinding techniques will yield different results and even affect the flavor. Using an appropriate measuring device, measure the volume of ingredients that have been grounded to ensure you achieve the desired levels for your recipe.
- For seeds and large spices, use the pounding approach to crack them. If any of the item within the ingredients resist the pounding, use the bashing technique to grind them. Whether bashing or pounding, start by grinding to deal with those ingredients that are easy before proceeding to the hard ones.
- Always use the pestle’s broad end to bash or pound the ingredients. This should be done in a gentle way using short and sharp pounds to conserve energy and speed-up the process. In order to minimise mishaps, use your hand or a small cloth to cup the top side of the mortar.
How to clean a mortar & pestle
The process of cleaning a mortar and a pestle depends heavily on its material.
- The stone materials can be quickly cleaned using rice and warm water.
- For cleaning ceramic, metal, or glass materials, use warm water and some rough scrubbing brush.
- Most wooden and bamboo mortars and pestles can be wiped using a damp cloth.
In all cases, soapy water should not be used to clean these kitchen tools. Once they have been cleaned, they need to be set aside on a towel or a drying rack.
Just any other kitchen equipment, it is always important to begin by cleaning it before use. A new mortar and pestle will require some level of seasoning before it is used for the first time. This aids in eliminating the possibility of having small particles from the mortar or the pestle ending up in your food.