We've Got a CRUSH on Our Mortar & Pestle

from Emile Henry

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The mortar and pestle date back thousands of years and have many uses – both in medical and in food preparation.

With an RX on the mortar (bowl) and the pestle nested inside the mortar, it is one of the most easily recognizable symbols of pharmacology. Pharmacists used it to crush ingredients when preparing prescriptions; today most medications are mass produced.

The mortar and pestle can be traced back to Italian frescoes of the 15th Century which show them being used by Apothecaries (ancient Pharmacists).  They also can be dated back 6,000 years to Mexican pre-history in the Tehuacán Valley. Some scientists believe the mortal and pestle played an important role in ignition history.

So what exactly is a 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” GourmetSleuth.com

For centuries, the mortar and pestle have been used in the preparation of food. The Native American Indian used it to grind seeds and nuts into meal for bread making. In Mexico, it is used to mix salsas and guacamoles as well as crush chilies, garlic and herbs. In Indian, it is used extensively to make spice mixtures. The sausage makers of the Dominican Republic use it to crush garlic and herbs that flavor sausage. In Puerto Rico, the spices used to make sofrito, spiced oil used in cooked, are combined in a mortar and pestle. The Japanese grind seafood, meat and tofu using a mortar and pestle. In some countries, it is used to pulverize rice and black eyed peas. Each country adapts this ancient tool to its own resources and needs.

We like to use the mortar and pestle to grind our spices because we can control the consistency. What can be better than toasting the whole spice and then grinding it by hand? It takes very little effort and the end result is well worth it. Of course, some people find it easier to use a coffee grinder for the same purpose but the aroma won’t burn off when using a mortar and pestle. It’s like making bread – some people like to use a bread machine to knead the dough, while others like the feel of the dough during the kneading process.

Our Mortar and Pestle of choice is produced by French manufacture, Emile Henry in the traditional round shape.
•  The Mortar has a glazed clay interior that is durable, resistant to chipping and scratches, is dishwasher safe and measures 5.5 inches x 3.25 inches.

•  The Pestle has a glazed clay head and a wooden handle and measures 6.75 inches long. Hand washing is recommended.

•  Available in four colors: Citron (yellow), Blanc (white), Cerise (red), and Azure (blue).

•  The unique, glazed clay interior provides enough resistance for optimal grinding yet is impermeable/ resistant to odors, flavors and staining. Garlic, fennel seed, pepper or any spice flavor will not transfer onto the glaze.

Now that we have introduced you to one of our favorite kitchen tools, we would like to share several recipes that use a Mortar and Pestle.The following Indian recipes are favorites of ours from the cookbook, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Spices by Ruta Kahate. They are easy to prepare, adapt well to the kosher kitchen, but do require toasting and grinding the spices. Try them and see for yourself how this simple process can enhance the end result. Enjoy! And, what a wonderful gift for yourself or for your Passover host!

•  Steamed Cauliflower with a Spicy Tomato Sauce
•  Spicy Eggplant with Tomatoes
•  Crusty Roasted Potatoes with Coriander
•  Lamb Chops with a Spicy Rub

For additional information on Emile Henry products, or to order, please visit EmileHenry.com. Also available on Amazon.com: Emile Henry Mortar and Pestle Set

February 24, 2011

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