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A mortar and pestle are two inseparable kitchen utensils that can’t be imagined one without the other. The two are used together so often that many may not even know which is which. The mortar is the smooth, round bowl that the spices, herbs, or other ingredients are filled in while the pestle is the stick that is used to grind it.
It is believed that the overall design of mortars and pestles has remained the same from the Stone Age, staying true to how early men used it and most evolved in material, shape, and size from culture to culture. The earliest form of the mortar and pestle was made out of stone, which is why granite pestle and mortars are among the highest in demand. However, you can find mortars and pestles made out of Olive Wood, marble, and cast iron.
Using a mortar and pestle is a straightforward process and doesn’t require any special skills or strength, especially if you opt for a heavy pestle. You can use a mortar and pestle to simply grind down whole spices into a fine powder, such as whole black pepper seeds, and then use them in your cooking. Additionally, you can grind and mix several spices together to form a spice blend. Keep on adding ingredients and form your favorite sauce right in the mortar. The Japanese are known for even grinding small fish into a paste with a mortar and pestle as well. All you need to do with your spices, herbs, or other ingredients is push down on it with the head of the pestle until it’s fine enough to your liking. With smaller and lighter pestles, this may take a few extra grinds than a heavier one.
When cooking with a mortar and pestle, it’s necessary to match the material to the purpose since some carry out certain functions slightly differently than others. For example, granite mortars and pestles are considered the most versatile since the weight of the material is optimal for crushing anything with ease. An Olive Wood mortar and pestle is considered the go-to choice for Mediterranean cuisine and making herb-based sauces such as pesto. There is the misconception that the wet ingredients can leak from wooden mortar, but as long as you are purchasing from a trusted brand such as Emilie Henry, there is no need to have this fear.