[mohl-kah-HEH-teh ee teh-hoh-LOH-teh]
The Mexican term for “MORTAR AND PESTLE” — molcajete being the mortar, tejolote the pestle. The black, rough texture of both pieces is a result of the fact that they’re made of basalt (volcanic rock). They are used in the traditional manner for grinding spices and herbs and other mixtures. . (Definition by epicurioius.com)
According to an article by by Diego Delgado, “The word molcajete (mortar) derives from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs: “molli” (seasoning or sauce) and “caxitl” (bowl). The word tejolote (pestle) also derives from Nahuatl: “tetl” (stone) and “xolotl” (doll).”
Foods traditionally prepared in the molcajete include salsas and mole’s (mohl-LAY), as well as guacamole. It is also used for grinding chilies, garlic or other herbs and spices for food preparation.
About Basalt / Lava Stone
The best quality molcajetes are made from basalt / lava stone with the lowest possible sand content. This stone can have a very fine-grain, smooth feel or a very rough-texture. The coarser textured stone (like the example at the bottom of this page) is made up of basalt with granite, feldspar and quartz mixed in. This stone is hard rough and makes a good grinding surface. Read more about volcanic stone.
You may find very inexpensive molcajetes on the web. These molcajetes have a very “rounded appearance” with pear or cone-shaped pestles. They are softer and easier to carve and thus less expensive. Unfortunately they are terribly sandy and no matter how you may try to cure them they will always be sandy. They are also typically very shallow so they don’t have a very usable capacity. These pieces are fine for decoration or serving only but we don’t recommend using them as a preparation or grinding tool. (Also, see our warning about fake molcajetes)
soft-stone inexpensive molcajete – image: by gourmetsleuth.com
How To Season or Prepare Your Molcajete Before Use
Seasoning is a method of preparing a porous surface to inhibit any unwanted flavors, decrease sticking or to smooth an overly rough surface. It is necessary to season the molcajete prior to using to avoid any large grit in your food.
1. Wash and scrub the interior of the molcajete and the tejolote with water and a stiff brush. Let both objects air dry. Now proceed to steps 2 and 3. We like the combination of both methods or you may select one or the other. This process only needs to be completed one time.
2. Put a handful of uncooked rice in the molcajete. Use the tejolote ( the pestle) and grind the rice into the surface of the molcajete (bowl). Discard the pulverized rice. Repeat the process until the pulverized rice is white, rather than gray or ash colored. If your molcajete is “pre-seasoned” you can skip this step.
3. Add 4 cloves of garlic (peeled), 1 teaspoon of cumin (comino) and 1 teaspoon salt, kosher is good, and a teaspoon of pepper. Grind the mixture evenly around the interior of the molcajete. Remove and discard the mixture. Rinse the molcajete and tejolote with clear water and allow to dry before storing. Note that these ingredients and quantities can be adjusted to your liking and for the size of your molcajete.
Simply wash the molcajete and tejolote in warm water after each use. Don’t use detergents because the soap and any perfumes may be absorbed into the stone and taint your food. Molcajetes can be put in a dishwasher with caution. Don’t place close to fragile dinnerware. If you want to sanitize a molcajete you can also scrub the stone well with soap and hot water then rinse and place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Use oven mitts to remove the molcajete from the oven and sit on a surface than can be exposed to high heat. Allow to cool before use.
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