Throughout the centuries, we have always found the need to grind foods and medicines into fine pastes and powders for preparation; and since ancient times, the mortar and pestle has been crushing it!
The history of the mortar and pestle takes us back even farther than you may think. In Mexico, research indicates that the mortar and pestle appeared as early as 6,000 years ago with the discovery of corn; and in the 15th century, the mortar and pestle was used by Italian pharmacists to mix and create medicines.
Here’s how it works. The mortar is a bowl which is typically made of hardwood, marble, pottery or stone. The pestle is the bat shaped implement used to grind substances against the mortar. The basic idea is to place the substance you want to crush inside the bowl/mortar, rest the pestle on top and apply downward pressure. Then a circular motion is used to compress the substance against the bowl.
It may sound old-school, but there is a very good reason that the mortar and pestle has stood the test of time and is still used in some of the best kitchens today. This age-old grinding process of using a mortar and pestle releases oils and the flavor essence of whatever substance you are crushing like no other process in the world. Not even a food processor can pulverize food to bring out the flavors like a mortar and pestle can. Plus, the mortar and pestle is not just useful, it’s a pretty face too! Many mortar and pestles serve as kitchen decorations when they are not in use.
Here’s just one word to the wise…detergents can be absorbed into the mortar and pestle and taint food, so be sure to properly maintain your mortar and pestle by washing it with warm water and a stiff brush.