Originally published on Food and Fond Memories on July 26, 2011 by sandyaxelrod Leave a Comment (Edit)

A lava rock mortar and pestle with chopped red onions in it sitting on a butcher block

Seasoning my molcajete and tejolote

Looking into an oven with a lava rock mortar and pestle filled with chopped red onions on an oven rack.

Seasoning my molcajete part two.

What the heck is a molcajete you ask? It’s a mortar and along with the tejolote or pestle it is something that I have wanted for quite a long time. Aside from the fact that I love to collect unique as well as antique cooking tools it has a rough texture that makes grinding garlic, herbs, seeds, etc. a walk in the park. In addition it is so cool to serve salsas, guacamole or pico de gallo right in it. According to the information that came in the box evidence of the molcajete goes back thousands of years and likely evolved from the metate, a primitive grinding slab. A ceramic version was used by pre-Hispanic Meso-american cultures. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, molcajete and tejolote literally translate as “sauce bowl” and “stone doll”. Molcajetes are used to crush and grind spices and herbs as well as blend salsas and pastes. Both the molcajete and the tejolote,  being carved of natural volcanic rock, have a superb grinding surface that renews itself as the pores are ground down.


Now I have to tell you that for all of my 42 years of marriage the only mortar and pestle I owned was a brass apothecary one that belonged to Steve’s paternal grandmother. I remember feeling so honored to be trusted with this precious heirloom when Steve and I got engaged. The first time I ever used it was about a month ago and it clearly was not designed for food! Lo and behold I get an email from opensky.com that Bobby Flay has a molcajete on sale and I immediately ordered it hoping against hope that it would arrive in time to use it to prep for our party for the Wellington Art Society. And guess what? It was delivered to my door Monday morning before I was even ready to do my party prep for the day. Of course you can’t begin using it until you season it. Much like a cast iron pan, once a molcajete and tejolote are seasoned they continue to get better and better.

Garlic cloves and Kosher salt ready to be ground to a paste in a lava rock mortar.

Garlic cloves and Kosher salt ready to be ground to a paste

A lava rock mortar and pestle with mashed garlic paste

A perfect garlic paste made in my molcajete

The way I seasoned the molcajete was to first put the pieces in the sink and rinse thoroughly. Then I put some white rice and water in the bowl and ground it into the surface with the tejolote which I kept rotating so its surface was cleaned as well, then rinse. I kept repeating that process until the water ran clear which meant that it was cured and I had removed any loose volcanic rock. Next I ground garlic and onion together in it making sure that the entire grinding surface was coated with this mixture. I placed the molcajete on a sheet tray and baked it in a pre-heated 300F oven for a half an hour. I made sure to let it cool completely before rinsing out the ground garlic and onion. From that point on all I should ever have to do to clean it is rinse it and wipe it. Not only did it do a great job for my party prep but it was quite the conversation piece on the buffet table holding the mango pico de gallo for the salmon tacos.