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What do *you* use your mortar and pestle for?

nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 01:31 PM

Ok, I just purchased a gorgeous granite mortar and pestle. I know that I need to grind some raw rice first to get all of the residual granite dust out. I plan on using it to grind peppercorns and other whole spices for rubs, pastes, etc. I know you can also make up some good basil pesto in it. What else do you do with yours?? This is 7" in diameter and around 12 lbs, so instead of taking it in and out of my cabinet, I'm planning on leaving it on the counter. So I would love to find as many uses for it as possible :)

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  1. bagelman01 RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 01:35 PM

    I don't have a granit one, mine is brass and belonged to my great granmother....
    We use it to pulverize nuts into a meal consistency. We also use it to turn matzo into matzo meal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01
      nutmegananne RE: bagelman01 Jul 18, 2011 03:06 PM

      Hey, so I could make almond meal at home...great idea!! Thank you :)

      1. re: nutmegananne
        ferret RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 03:18 PM

        You can also easily do it in a food processor.

    2. c
      Chowrin RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 01:36 PM


      1. chefathome RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 01:37 PM

        I have three different ones but definitely love my huge 17 lb granite M&P best. I, too, use it for all kinds of pesto (arugula, basil, mint, rosemary, pumpkin seed, sundried tomato); sauces; grinding spices. I also use it for aioli, making mustard and so on.

        Mine sits out on the counter as I use it so often. I practically treat it like a child! :-P

        1. rabaja RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 01:51 PM

          I use mine most often to pound garlic and spices. I have two, a marble medium sized one which I'm always grabbing and a larger one I lugged home from South America with a wooden pestle that is really like a piece of art to me. It doesn't get as much use, but it works hard sitting there looking pretty, with bay leaves and garlic and thyme sitting in its generous bowl.
          I also will pound cardamom and lavender when I'm making sweets, and I keep thinking I should buy another one and designate it for pastry. So far the garlic smell hasn't stuck, but I'm sure one neglectful washing will tarnish a batch of caramels.
          I love using the m&p. So satisfying.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rabaja
            nutmegananne RE: rabaja Jul 18, 2011 03:07 PM

            pumpkin seed pesto sounds amazing...

            1. re: nutmegananne
              chefathome RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 04:08 PM

              It is incredible. You grind pumpkin seeds and use pumpkin seed oil instead of olive oil. The rest if the same as traditional basil pesto.

              1. re: chefathome
                jkling17 RE: chefathome Nov 5, 2011 02:25 AM

                Pumpkin seed pesto .... mmmm. THANK you for posting this. I'll pick up some pumpkin oil this weekend - that sounds just GREAT.

                I've always wanted a mortar and pestle but have just never got around to it. And yes, there are times when I'm making my own curry that I wish that I did have one!

                I think for me that I'd rather have a small dedicated spice grinder. Either one of those inexpensive blade models or perhaps one of those new designs for manual grinding - they are often listen as pollen grinders and are readily available in metal for only $10-15.

          2. Duppie RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 02:05 PM

            I collect them and now have 14 ranging from a 18 lb monster from the Philippines to a tiny porcelain number that was used to pulverize pills. My favorites are used constantly to make pastes,crush herbs,seeds and dry seasonings.I have one I use just to crush Alka Seltzer tablets.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Duppie
              nutmegananne RE: Duppie Jul 18, 2011 03:07 PM

              14 M&P!! How cool. :)

            2. JB BANNISTER RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 02:47 PM

              I just finished making green sea salt. I pounded and ground green tea and sea salt. I normally use it to pound spices including peppercorns.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JB BANNISTER
                nutmegananne RE: JB BANNISTER Jul 18, 2011 03:05 PM

                Green tea sea salt? Sounds wonderful!! Please tell me...you use coarse sea salt and...loose green tea leaves, I guess? What do you like to use it on?

                Thanks :)

              2. m
                Maximilien RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 04:09 PM

                mostly salt, I buy coarse grey salt and pound it down to finer powder for normal usage.

                other use is for spice and herbs.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Maximilien
                  rabaja RE: Maximilien Jul 18, 2011 07:44 PM

                  This is a great tip. A woman I work with does this. The grey salt is so nice to work with and when it's fine it's uses really open up.

                2. meatn3 RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 04:59 PM

                  I use it for crushing capers for tartar sauce, garlic for rubs in addition to salt, herbs and spices.
                  I find it quicker to use and easier to clean than a food processor, especially for small quantities.

                  1. e
                    exvaxman RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 05:05 PM

                    To be honest, I dehydrate a lot of spice mixes. The food processor can burn what I am trying to create. So I try and make sure that the mortar is used for the expensive spices....

                    1. JungMann RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 07:18 PM

                      A mortar and pestle is essential for getting the right texture to toasted rice flour. As someone who often cooks for one, I find the mortar and pestle essential for pulverizing small amounts of spices for single serving curries or mashing garlic for raw applications like tzatziki or guacamole. It's also quite useful for cracking cardamom pods.

                      1. FoodFuser RE: nutmegananne Jul 18, 2011 09:52 PM

                        I've got four, ranging in sizes, but the one I use most is the 5 dollar ceramic model from the chemistry lab. Palm sized, both hands get into the action.

                        I buy spices as seeds whenever possible, and a quick trip through the mortar bruises or pulverizes them. Also, there is therapeutic fun in grinding down sea salt to the soft fineness of popcorn salt. Adds an extra element to watching TV.

                        Larger one (Thai, marble) is essential for guacamole. Coriander leaves that are crushed by the pestle, and onions pulverized to get to their cell walls. Far superior to chopped.. Cleans easily with plastic scraper.

                        1. h
                          HillJ RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 06:50 AM

                          To add to an already useful list

                          cocoa nibs to split into smaller pieces
                          coffee beans to use in baked goods
                          cinnamon bark to break and use in dishes
                          to mash ginger root
                          to mash lemongrass

                          1. tcamp RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 07:34 AM

                            I have a small, smooth interior M&P. Not really sure what it is made of. I use it for grinding spices exclusively.

                            I've lusted after a stone molcajete for several years but haven't purchased due to lack of kitchen space. This thread might push me over the cliffs of indecision, however.

                            1. i
                              Isolda RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 09:37 AM

                              Grinding spices, gettting the pods off cardamom seeds so they can be ground, removing garlic peel (just one thwack does it), grinding garlic and salt together, basically doing anything that requires pulverizing small quantities. (I have a small granite and a small marble M&P)

                              1. scubadoo97 RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 09:48 AM

                                I use mine a lot for pounding garlic into a paste.

                                I just used my small onyx one to make a homemade Cesar dressing.

                                1. jmckee RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 10:08 AM

                                  I make a lot of herbal marinades and dressings in mine. I also grind the cat's pill in a small one so I can hide it in her canned food.

                                  Looking forward to making my first Aioli in the big one later this summer.

                                  1. d
                                    DWB RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 03:25 PM

                                    Conditioning a M&P with raw rice sounds like a Molcajete, which will usually stay more coarse even after much usage. My smoother marble M&P is used more for pounding dried shrimp into a fluffy luscious addition to pad thai.

                                    1. b
                                      BKK Brendan RE: nutmegananne Jul 19, 2011 10:21 PM

                                      The main thing I use one for is guacamole, but I also use it for grinding peppercorns. Very nice for a pepper crusted fish.

                                      1. g
                                        gilintx RE: nutmegananne Jul 20, 2011 01:33 PM

                                        Whenever I make Spanish rice, I reach for my molcajete. A clove of garlic, a few peppercorns, a pinch of cumin get ground into a paste, then I add tomato (canned or sauce, depending on what I have on hand), and a touch of salt. Once that's been mixed together, I toast some rice, add the puree, some water, and a few whole stems of cilantro.

                                        1. grayelf RE: nutmegananne Jul 20, 2011 05:24 PM

                                          I have mini volcanic stone mortars that nest, perfect for grinding up small amounts of spices as mentioned multiple times. But my favourite use is to convert whole dried chiles into chile flakes for recipes calling for specific varieties.

                                          1. j
                                            jcisn RE: nutmegananne Jul 22, 2011 09:03 AM

                                            I have three so far. A Thai granite, a molcajete and a small ceramic.
                                            I use the them all. The ceramic is used mainly for grinding small amounts of spice
                                            such a saffon, The Thai granite is my big masher, works great for pounding rock
                                            hard lumps of piloncillo, palm sugar or jaggery to a powder. Thai curry pastes.
                                            The molcajete is my main mortar scooter,I use it for grinding spices, making salsas,
                                            mashing and grinding garlic and peppers.
                                            I use my mortars more than I use my blender or food processor.
                                            A salsa always tastes better if done in a molcajete rather than a blender.

                                            1. TroyTempest RE: nutmegananne Jul 25, 2011 11:03 AM

                                              get some plantains and make some mofongo.

                                              1. n
                                                Nablusiya RE: nutmegananne Oct 16, 2011 02:57 AM

                                                Nut butters! I don't currently have a food processor, so I use mine to make almond butter, peanut butter and other nut butters. I remember the day I discovered that this was possible with a mortar and pestle: my heart soared. It only takes about five minutes of pounding and grinding.

                                                I oven-roast raw nuts so that I can control the amount of salt. For almond butter (or 'ABC butter'--almond, cashew and brazil nuts), I add a little vegetable oil for texture and salt for flavor. For peanut butter, I add vegetable oil, salt, and a sweetener (I experiment with different types of molasses, syrups or honey).

                                                I also use it to make pestos, grind spices and salt, smash up garlic and ginger, and mash beans.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: Nablusiya
                                                  iyc_nyc RE: Nablusiya Oct 16, 2011 09:54 AM

                                                  Nablusiya, do you for your nut butters, do you add the additional ingredients (honey, etc.) in the mortar and mash together, or just mix it in after?

                                                  1. re: iyc_nyc
                                                    Nablusiya RE: iyc_nyc Oct 17, 2011 01:07 AM

                                                    I start out just pounding the nuts by themselves--as they break up, I find it's helpful to be able to smash-and-spread the chunks against the stone. When it gets too thick, and I'm constantly using a rubber spatula to break it up, I start adding a little oil. It depends entirely on the oil content of the nuts--with peanuts, I add oil pretty quickly after it starts getting mealy, but I add it later with cashews and brazil nuts, for example. The salt and sweetener I usually mix in at the end, with a rubber spatula. I like using slightly course sea salt, and I don't want it smashed up too fine, so I add it at the end. But play around and experiment! It's fun.

                                                    1. re: Nablusiya
                                                      iyc_nyc RE: Nablusiya Oct 17, 2011 05:13 PM

                                                      awesome, can't wait to try! thanks for sharing..

                                                  2. re: Nablusiya
                                                    mattstolz RE: Nablusiya Oct 16, 2011 12:54 PM

                                                    five minutes is less time than it takes my food pro! haha what kind of consistency do ya get and what kind of ratio do you use of added fat:nuts?

                                                    1. re: mattstolz
                                                      Nablusiya RE: mattstolz Oct 17, 2011 01:16 AM

                                                      The texture isn't as smooth as what you would get in a food processor, but I like it a little chunky. It depends on your energy level, though--ten minutes of pounding will give you a smoother texture than five minutes of pounding. The only thing that bothers me is that my mortar-and-pestle is quite small, so I can only make small batches at at time. That guarantees that it's always fresh, though--I make it once a week or so. The amount of oil depends on the texture you want, and on the amount of oil in the nuts you're using. I used to be conservative about the amount of oil I used, but now I just add it until I'm happy with the texture--I figure however much I add is less than the oil and preservatives that they would add in a factory.

                                                  3. mattstolz RE: nutmegananne Oct 16, 2011 05:31 AM

                                                    I personally dont have a mortar and pestle (yet...want one!) but my mom purchased a mocajete a few months ago.

                                                    so far ive just used it for a workout while grinding down rice in it to get it ready for her to actually USE! haha

                                                    1. r
                                                      rainey RE: nutmegananne Oct 16, 2011 10:27 AM

                                                      I have a few. For spices the really small ones are ideal. I had one that was a cheap, hollow ceramic thingie. For about 2 weeks it provided *great* service. The roughness of the interior of the mortar was perfect! Then one day the mortar simply smashed like an eggshell under the pressure of the pestle.

                                                      What I learned from that is that if I ever find the same one again, I will fill the hollow underside with Plaster of Paris to give it some heft. No other shape or design I've found since has done the same job.

                                                      Everyone has had great ideas. The only thing I can add is that when I make bread dough in my breadmaker some of the dough collects around the paddles and on the pan. I let this dry. I can brush off the sides but a good bit of tasty, well-fermented, aged dough turns into little rocks at the bottom around the stems of the paddles. I tease that out with the tip of a knife and put it in a small mortar to break it down into a powder. Instant "old dough" or leavain to add to the yeast for my next batch.

                                                      If you do sourdough, collect this stuff as "insurance" in case your sourdough ever gives up the ghost. Dissolve it and then begin feeding it, just like a sourdough, and you'll get a live culture going again with the same well-developed flavor you thought you lost.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: rainey
                                                        grayelf RE: rainey Nov 15, 2011 08:36 PM

                                                        Great post, rainey.

                                                      2. e
                                                        ellabee RE: nutmegananne Oct 16, 2011 12:56 PM

                                                        Harissa (hot peppers, garlic, spices)

                                                        Thai pastes

                                                        Haven't found mine quite big enough for pesto, though the 4+" hemisphere bowl holds just under two cups. it's Thai volcanic rock of some kind.

                                                        1. n
                                                          nattythecook RE: nutmegananne Oct 16, 2011 04:01 PM

                                                          I have 2 sets, wood and granite. The wooden set is for papaya salad because all you need to do is bruise it, it doesn't work well for spices.

                                                          I use the granite mortar and pestle for grinding Thai curry pastes. They grind as opposed to cut, which is what a food processor does. Even though it takes more time and muscle, it gives better results.

                                                          For grinding spices, the granite set works really well, especially with peppercorns. The peppercorns tend to escape the food processor blade.

                                                          The added benefit of the heavy mortar is muscle toning. I'm developing a good bicep, just on one side. Bummer.

                                                          And my kids have another toy wooded set. And that's what Thai kids play with!

                                                          1. k
                                                            klyeoh RE: nutmegananne Oct 17, 2011 01:23 AM

                                                            To prepare curry pastes for Singaporean or Malaysian curries. We'd pound chillis (fresh & dried), garlic, shallots, ginger, galangal, candlenuts & lemongrass together. Using a food processor doesn't have the same effect - when lemongrass stalks are pounded, for example, essentials oils are released & the resultant curry paste has a more pronounced scent/fragrance. A food processor merely *cuts* the stalks into bits.

                                                            1. vanderb RE: nutmegananne Oct 17, 2011 04:37 AM

                                                              Flax seeds for morning yogurt and as listed by other folks Thai curry pastes, any and all spice mixes/marinades.

                                                              We had three, a small marble one cupper but the pestle broke when it landed on the equaly hard marble floor, a pretty olive wood one that's a little under 1 cup... but ended up not working for much of anything and is now a change dish and the newest big boy addition, a large 3 cup granite monster from one of the Asian stores in the Naschmarkt in Vienna.

                                                              1. kscooley RE: nutmegananne Nov 4, 2011 03:23 PM

                                                                Just ordered a large 4 cup granite from Amazon the other day & got my ship notice tonight. Monday will be time to play with a new toy! It was a help seeing what everyone uses their M&Ps for. I need to learn how exactly one makes salsa & guac in it, though... Everything gets all mashed in there together?

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: kscooley
                                                                  ratgirlagogo RE: kscooley Nov 5, 2011 12:43 PM

                                                                  I love my mortar and pestle and use it all the time. But not for guacamole. I've never actually understand why you would make guacamole in a mortar and pestle in the first place. The avocado just needs to be mashed with a fork, the salsa cruda is prepared on a cutting board with a knife, yes? What's the M&P for? Crushing dried chiles or something?

                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                                    kscooley RE: ratgirlagogo Nov 7, 2011 01:40 PM

                                                                    I'm clueless! I just saw that the larger M&Ps get used for this - at least the molcajetes do. Thought it would be fun to try.

                                                                  2. re: kscooley
                                                                    Rick RE: kscooley Nov 19, 2011 10:25 AM

                                                                    When I've made guac with m&p I put in the garlic, jalapenos, cilantro, onion, and salt and grind all of that together. I then take that mixture and proceed to make the guac as per normal. I did notice that it tasted a little more flavorful this way, but I did it twice and never did it again. Didn't find it to be worth the hassle.

                                                                  3. Chemicalkinetics RE: nutmegananne Nov 4, 2011 06:01 PM

                                                                    I use them to grind spices. That's it.

                                                                    1. bestcookware RE: nutmegananne Nov 19, 2011 10:36 AM

                                                                      I have a granite mortar, just like the one Jamie Oliver used in his earlier shows. I use it to make rubs, such as garlic, herbs and spices, to grind nuts, sometimes to crack pepper just a bit, I even mash jalapeno peppers for a jalapeno bechamel sauce I use for vegetarian lasagna.
                                                                      It also looks beautiful on my counter :)

                                                                      1. l
                                                                        LidiaV RE: nutmegananne Mar 24, 2014 12:11 AM

                                                                        How does a mortar look like inside? Is it finely polished? I'm just afraid that if it isn't, small pieces of it could mix with the food inside.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: LidiaV
                                                                          Chowrin RE: LidiaV Mar 24, 2014 07:39 AM

                                                                          of course it will. a bit of sand won't kill ya.

                                                                        2. mbfant RE: nutmegananne Mar 24, 2014 12:50 AM

                                                                          "Also" make pesto? Pesto is by definition made with mortar and pestle (hence its name). Serious cooks in Liguria would never make it any other way.

                                                                          We make the anchovy dressing for puntarelle with the mortar and pestle, and when puntarelle aren't in season we use the dressing on curly endive or radicchio. Pound a peeled and coarsely chopped garlic clove with 3-4 anchovy fillets until you have a paste, then mix in a teaspoon or two of red-wine vinegar, then as much extra virgin olive oil as you need for your salad.

                                                                          1. c
                                                                            CaliforniaJoseph RE: nutmegananne Mar 24, 2014 09:29 AM

                                                                            Garlic & cumin seeds most often

                                                                            1. j
                                                                              jcisn RE: nutmegananne Mar 24, 2014 04:44 PM

                                                                              A granite mortar and pestle needs nothing more that a bit
                                                                              of washing.
                                                                              A molcajete on the other hand needs a bit of work
                                                                              to rid it of dust and grit.
                                                                              They don't quite work the same.
                                                                              The former is best used to pound and pulverize.
                                                                              The later does that plus cuts due to the myriad hole
                                                                              edges in the lava rock.
                                                                              Either makes a better salsa or pesto IMNSHO than
                                                                              a food processor or blender.
                                                                              Tahini for hummus is easy peasy.

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