This is my Molcajete y Tejalote - it's a Mexican pestle and mortar made from volcanic rock. It's great for grinding spices and also for grinding down wet ingredients like onions, garlic and avocado.
Seasoning a Molcajete
When you buy a Molcajete it will need seasoning before you use it to prepare food. Without seasoning both the Molcajete (pestle) and the Tejalote (mortar) will grind fragments of volcanic grit into your food - not good.
I seasoned mine as follows..
Stage 1 - Smoothing:
- Rinse with clean water (NEVER use detergent in your molcajete).
- Place a tablespoon of uncooked rice grains into the molcajete and grind them down to a floury paste.
- Repeat from step 1 until you no longer see specks of grit in the ground rice.
The grinding smooths and polishes both the molcajete and the tejalote (don't forget to season both ends of the tejalote). It also forces bits of the rice grain into the mocajete.
Stage 1 can take some time and will probably give you blisters. I seasoned mine outdoors because rice grains ping all over the place while you are grinding.
Stage 2 - Sealing:
- Grind 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 6 cloves of garlic and 2tbsp of Maldon salt in the molcajete.
- Add olive oil to the molcajete and mix with the garlic and cumin paste.
- Smear the oily mixture around the inside of the molcajete bowl and all over the tejalote.
- Put the molcajete y tejalote in a 200C oven for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool before washing thoroughly with clean water.
The picture below shows the inside of my molcajete after seasoning and repeated use. You can see that the inside of the bowl is smoother than the outer rim.
Molcajete cleaning and care
After each use of your molcajete y tejalote you should clean it thoroughly with clean hot water. NEVER use washing up liquid or detergents and NEVER put it in the dishwasher - doing so will taint the molcajete. I use a nylon brush with short bristles for cleaning my molcajete y tejalote and I keep it separate from the regular washing up brush.
From time to time you can give the molcajete another blast in the oven to sterilise it. You can do this with or without the oil, cumin, garlic & salt.
Why use a Molcajete rather than a spice grinder / blender?
The great thing about a molcajete is that it releases juices from any wet ingredients you grind in a way that a blender or food processor cannot. Also, as you continue to use it the seasoning process continues and the molcajete becomes imbued with the aromas of cumin, garlic and onion - I'm sure this adds something to the next batch of fresh ingredients you grind in it.Here are some wet ingredients before grinding (note the ground cumin residue in the pores of the rock).
And here they are after less than 30 seconds of grinding.
You can see that the juices have been released without the ingredients being puréed. Further grinding will break ingredients down to a pulp but I usually go just a little further than the picture above and then stop grinding so that the ingredients retain some texture.
Where to buy a Molcajete y Tejalote
I bought my Molcajete y Tejalote from www.casamexico.co.uk. You can buy a molcajete online from Casa Mexico but the delivery costs are high - you're buying a big chunk of volcanic rock and it's heavy. If you live in the London area it would be a better idea to visit their shop and stock up on some Mexican ingredients while you're there.