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Using a Mortar and Pestle - A Great way to Crush Herbs and Spices
The timeless mortar and pestle
Mortars and Pestles come in various sizes and are made of various materials. They are often made from stone, wooden, stainless steel, plastic and more. I think it would be fascinating to do a study on what peoples in history used what kinds, as they have been around for centuries. I am recalling big hollowed out stones from books and movies, that people used to use from all other the world. There have been some found in bedrock, hollowed out of the huge rock itself. It was said they ground up acorns in those holes. Fascinating stuff!
From herbs, to grains, to dried roots and seeds, you can use a mortar and pestle for your kitchen needs. Many people that love to make a good guacamole, or even a basil pesto sauce, will sometimes use a mortar and pestle.
Basically, the mortar and pestle is a tool that is often used in kitchens for mixing, grinding or crushing things for your use. Depending what your needs are, will determine how and how often you use it.
I love to grow herbs in my herb garden every year. So whether spices, or other herbs, a mortar and pestle comes in handy for me. Using this tool is a favorite of many, and works very well for most of your herbal and spice needs.
When you use a mortar and pestle for your spices and herbs, you get an incredible aroma right off. You are releasing the oils within the plant, seed or root. For the best aroma and taste from your spice, only grind and crush as much as you will need for the very near future. You can always grind more later. One or two days in advance if a great time frame to keep in mind. Always store your herbs in a cool and dry place.
A smaller mortar and pestle from china, for instance, is good for grinding smaller things like cumin, caraway seeds, cloves, ajowan and more. Two tablespoons of your ingredient, is plenty to do at one time. If you need more, just crush or grind more. Basically, you put it in the bowl, and grind in a circular motion, until you achieve the desired result.
Grinding and crushing Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper, yes that very hot red pepper, is a new favorite herb of mine, for probably the last year and a half. I put it in so many things. I firmly believe it is so healthy for you! I go through cayenne pepper when I buy it from the store. Now, I grow my own cayenne in my herb garden. They make an economical and fun way to get my cayenne now. You must be careful when dealing with hot peppers, it can actually burn your skin, so wear gloves if necessary.
Make sure your peppers are washed. Let them dry, remove seeds, and grind away. I add this to all my spaghetti sauces, and chicken noodle soups, even garlic breads, and much much more.
You can do the above approach with many herbs and spices grown in a garden. Ginger, garlic, and the larger spices can be done in a stone mortar and pestle with great results
The other thing that is fun to do, is dry peppermint, and make your own peppermint teas. There is spearmint, and you can grow chamomile, etc. I have grown sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and many more. You could grind these up, and use them in any dish. We had a peppercorn grinder that broke, and we had extra peppercorns. Its so easy to put them in the mortar, and pound away at them with the pestle. I think my very favorite technique from this item, is that it gives you the super fresh aromas and oils which are unparalleled by any other method. It makes your spices go further, for that reason, and makes your food so much more flavorful and aromatic.
Having grown lavender, which I love, you could use the mortar and pestle to grind up leaves and flowers, and use them in completely different kinds of recipes, like soaps, and fragrance oils, candles, etc. Some even make very beautiful stationery papers from herbs.
The next thing I hope to do, is do more of the medicinal recipes from herbs and incorporate them into teas and more. Without going into too much detail here, there is lots of evidence to suggest that herbs help our bodies and minds, even more than previously thought. I am a firm believer, that much of what can heal us, is already within the earth and nature. I am less inclined toward chemical based medicines, but we still use them all the time. I just like to also use herbs when I can. It seems there is always a new one popping up on the news. There is a reason for this!
The sky is the limit! Try out a mortar and pestle if you never have, its fun.