Ancient Cookware 8-Inch Molcajete $59.95

The history of the molcajete dates back thousands of years.

Used since pre-Hispanic times, it is usually carved from rough volcanic rock and shaped with a wide bowl and a three-footed base. The word “molcajete” is derived from the Nahuatl words “mollicaxtli” and “temolcaxitl,” meaning “bowl for sauce” or “stone bowl for the mole.” The pestle, called a tejolote, is also carved from rock, and together, they are used to grind spices, dried chilies, seeds, fresh or roasted chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos and onions. The coarse, porous basalt is ideal for mashing ingredients together for guacamole, as well as fresh roasted salsas and relishes.

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Despite the similarities between the tools, one does not use the molcajete to pound ingredients as you would a mortar and pestle. Instead, you fit the tejolote into your palm and direct its movement with your fingertips as you grind ingredients against the rough stone. This molcajete is great not only for making guacamole and salsa, but also for grinding spices, grains and stale bread. Use it to break apart fresh, dried or toasted chilies, too.

How to season your molcajete: Before the first use, rinse the molcajete with water, then clean it with a wire brush. Use the pestle to grind up several cloves of garlic into a paste. Spread it all around the inside of the molcajete. You can also use onion, or a combination of onion and garlic, as well as cumin seeds, rock salt and cilantro. Rice is another traditionally used ingredient for grinding during this initial seasoning stage. Let the molcajete rest for 24 hours. Then rinse away the paste from the molcajete.

Kitchen Notes

Never use soap or any kind of detergent on a molcajete, as the porous rock will absorb its smell and taste of the detergent. This is a tool that improves with time and use, accumulating the oils and aromas of the food made in it. And the rock itself imparts a pleasing mineral taste to the food. A stiff brush (with no detergent) is a useful tool for cleaning out the craggy holes.

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