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The Mortar and Pestle

One of our favorite kitchen tools is a classic that embraces connection with our ingredients and rejects the trend of plastic appliances: the Mortar and Pestle.

History  |  Krok Mortar and Pestle  |  How to Use a Mortar and Pestle

The History of the Mortar and Pestle

The mortar and pestle is one of the oldest known tools used by humans and has a rich history that spans thousands of years. Its origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations.

The earliest evidence of mortars and pestles dates back to around 35,000 BCE in the form of stone implements found in caves. These early versions were likely used for grinding seeds, grains, and plant materials.

Throughout history, various cultures worldwide have adopted the mortar and pestle as an essential tool in their culinary practices and medicinal traditions. For example, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese all used mortar and pestle for grinding herbs, spices, and other ingredients for cooking and medicine.

In ancient Egypt, mortars and pestles were commonly made of stone and used to prepare medicines and cosmetics. Likewise, the Greeks and Romans used them extensively in their kitchens and apothecaries.

Our latest addition, the granite Krok mortar and pestle, and our old marble version.

During the Middle Ages, the use of mortars and pestles continued to evolve. The design and materials used for making mortars and pestles expanded to include metals, such as bronze and iron, in addition to stone. As a result, the tool became a staple in medieval European kitchens, where it was used for grinding spices, herbs, and medicinal ingredients.

With the advancements in technology and new grinding methods, the use of mortars and pestles declined during the industrial revolution. However, they never completely disappeared from kitchens and remained popular among traditional cooks, herbalists, and pharmacists who appreciated their simplicity and efficiency.

The Mortar and Pestle is an Enduring Classic

Today, the mortar and pestle continues to be used by professional chefs and home cooks alike. They are cherished for their ability to grind ingredients to desired textures, release essential oils, and create unique flavors and aromas in dishes.

The mortar and pestle’s enduring presence in kitchens around the world is a testament to its timeless functionality and the connection it provides to our culinary heritage.

The Krok Mortar and Pestle – a Very Special Tool

We have owned a mortar and pestle for many, many years. It’s been used for crushing seeds and spices; however, it is a little small to do more than just a teaspoon of ingredients. So, it wasn’t always convenient to use. Enter the beautifully hand-crafted Krok mortar and pestle.

A short time ago we were contacted by the good people at Krok who inquired whether we would be interested in trying out one of their mortar and pestles. We are always up for trying new products and sharing our feedback, so we said “Yes”!

In The Box

As soon as it arrived and we opened the box, we knew this was something special. Krok’s products are individually handmade by artisans using traditional methods. They are made from solid pieces of granite that are carefully worked and fashioned. Two very special additional features of these mortar and pestles are the thick cork base and the wonderful enamel spoon.

The cork base does a fantastic job of keeping the tool from moving around on, and scratching, your kitchen counter as you use it. Just as importantly, it also dampens the impact and sound from pounding. The spoon is perfectly shaped to remove ingredients from the mortar. It has just the right angle and the exact curve to fit the contour of the mortar’s bowl.

We have used it to grind flax and chia seeds, to make pesto, and with just a few gentle hits of the pestle to make absolutely perfectly consistent chopped nuts (no more chopping with a knife on the cutting board!). We have been delighted with how quickly we’ve been able to do all of those tasks. It is a testament to how beautifully these products are made. The size, shape, and texture is just right for its purpose.

click on the images for an enlarged view

Our recommendation: there are plenty of places where you can buy a mortar and pestle and many different sizes and price points. We strongly recommend that you give these excellent products from Krok a try. You will not only receive something exceptional, but you will also be supporting traditional craftwork. As they state so eloquently on their website: “KROK is on a mission to reintroduce the mortar and pestle, the most ancient cooking utensil, into today’s kitchen. We are preserving the artisanal craft tradition in Thailand, working with the remaining craftsmasters that continue to carve this tool by hand, and inspiring home cooks around the world to use the mortar and pestle for everyday cooking.”

How To Use a Mortar and Pestle

A mortar and pestle is a kitchen tool used for grinding, crushing, and blending ingredients. Here’s a description of how it is used:

  1. To begin, select a mortar and pestle made of a suitable material such as stone, marble, ceramic, or wood. These materials provide a sturdy grinding surface.
  2. Before using the mortar and pestle, it’s important to prepare the ingredients by cutting or chopping them into smaller pieces. This facilitates the grinding process.
  3. Next, place a small quantity of the ingredient(s) you want to grind or crush into the mortar. It’s generally better to start with a smaller amount to ensure efficient grinding.
  4. Hold the pestle firmly in your dominant hand and use it to apply downward pressure on the ingredients. Start by pressing and grinding the ingredients against the surface of the mortar.
  5. Utilize a combination of motions, such as twisting, grinding, and circular movements, to break down the ingredients. The texture and hardness of the ingredients will determine the amount of force and time required.
  6. As you grind, the ingredients will gradually break down and release their flavors and aromas. Pause occasionally to check the consistency and texture. You can remove a small amount with a spoon or your fingers to evaluate the progress.
  7. Continue grinding until you achieve the desired texture or consistency. This can vary depending on the recipe or personal preference. Some ingredients may require more time and effort to achieve a fine powder, while others may be coarsely crushed.
  8. Once you have achieved the desired result, carefully transfer the ground ingredients from the mortar to a container or directly into your recipe.
  9. After use, clean the mortar and pestle with warm water and a brush. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers that could damage the material. Allow them to air dry before storing.

Overall, a mortar and pestle is a versatile tool that allows you to grind and crush ingredients, unlocking their flavors and aromas. It requires manual effort but provides a traditional and hands-on approach to food preparation.

Husband and wife, father and mother, working adults – Greg and Georgia formed Full of Beans to share encouragement, inspiration, and tips to get you started on, and maintain, a plant-based vegan diet (even if you think you don't have the time/money/skills/energy). See the About page for more.

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