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April 20, 2023 7 min read

 

In the age of modern technology and convenience, it's easy to overlook the tried and true methods of the past. One such tool that has stood the test of time is the mortar and pestle. Dating back thousands of years, this simple yet effective kitchen instrument has been used for everything from grinding herbs and spices to creating medicines and even mixing paints. Despite the availability of electric grinders and blenders, many people still choose to use mortar and pestles in their daily lives. But why?

In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons why people still use mortar and pestles and why this ancient tool remains relevant today.

 

Historical Significance of Mortar and Pestles

 

old metal mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ Artem_ka

 

To fully appreciate the relevance of the mortar and pestle today, it's essential to understand its historical significance.

Mortars and pestles have a long and fascinating history spanning thousands of years and multiple cultures. Used extensively by ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, these tools were typically made of stone or wood and were used for grinding grains, herbs, and spices for cooking purposes. In fact, some of the earliest known examples of these tools date back more than 35,000 years. 

In addition to their use in cooking, mortar and pestles were also used for medicinal purposes throughout history. Early physicians and herbalists used them to grind and mix various plants and other natural ingredients. The process of grinding allowed for the release of essential oils and active compounds, making it easier to create effective remedies and medicines.

Beyond their practical uses, mortar and pestles also hold cultural and symbolic significance. In some cultures, they are used in religious ceremonies or as part of traditional healing practices. They are also often featured in artwork and other decorative objects, representing the importance of food, medicine, and craftsmanship.

Even to this day, mortar and pestles are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes around the world, including in Thai, Indian, and Western cuisines. As global trade increases and new spices and herbs are introduced to different cultures, this kitchen instrument remains a key tool for grinding and blending. 

 

The Benefits of Using Mortar and Pestles

granite mortar and pestle with peppercorns

Credit: Envato Elements/ baspentrubas

 

In order to understand why the mortar and pestle are still in use today, it is crucial to grasp the benefits of using this classic tool:

 

1) Control Over Texture

 

One of the key benefits of using a mortar and pestle is the ability to have precise control over the texture of the ingredients you are working with. By using this manual tool, one can easily regulate the amount of force and pressure applied during the grinding or crushing process, resulting in a diverse range of textures. Whether you need a smooth, silky powder or a rough, gritty texture, a mortar and pestle provides the flexibility to achieve your desired outcome.

 

2) Retains Flavors and Aromas

 

When you use a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients, you can retain more of their flavors and aromas. This is due to the mechanical action of grinding or crushing, which breaks down the cell walls of the ingredients, allowing flavorful oils and fragrances to be released. Alternatively, electric tools generate heat, which can cause the essential oils to evaporate and result in a loss of aroma and flavor. 

 

3) Versatile Uses

 

As seen throughout history, mortar and pestles are highly versatile tools that can be used for a multitude of tasks. Even today, they are still widely used in the kitchen for creating delicious recipes like pesto sauce, garlic paste, curry paste, and much more. Besides their use in the kitchen, mortar and pestles can also be used for non-food-related tasks such as mixing medication, making them a handy tool to have in any home or laboratory.

 

4) Easy to Clean

 

Using a mortar and pestle is not only convenient, but it is also incredibly easy to clean. After use, you can simply rinse them with water and give them a quick scrub with a brush or sponge. This makes them a hassle-free kitchen tool that you can rely on. Moreover, their simple design and easy-to-reach crevices ensure that cleaning is never a chore. With minimal effort, you can maintain their pristine condition, ensuring that they are always ready for your next great culinary adventure.

 

5) Preserves Nutrients 

 

Another key benefit of using mortar and pestles is their capability to maintain the nutrient content of the ingredients. This is due to the gradual and careful grinding process that occurs, unlike other methods of food preparation, which expose the ingredients to air. This grinding process protects the ingredients and ensures that their nutrient content remains intact.

 

6) Affordable and Long-Lasting

 

Mortar and pestles are known for their affordability in comparison to electric grinders and blenders. In addition to being cost-effective, they have a reputation for lasting a long time with proper care. With minimal maintenance, they can withstand the test of time and offer durability that can last for years.

 

Drawbacks of Using a Mortar and Pestle

 

hands using wooden mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ StudioLucky

 

While there are many benefits to using a mortar and pestle, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

 

1) Time-Consuming

 

Grinding large amounts of ingredients for recipes with a mortar and pestle can be a tedious and time-intensive process that demands significant manual effort. Attaining the desired texture or consistency may require several minutes of persistent labor, which can test one's patience. In this case, a modern kitchen appliance or food processor can significantly speed up the process and help you complete the task more quickly. 

 

2) Physical Effort Required

 

The use of a mortar and pestle can be a physically demanding task that requires a significant amount of effort. This can pose a challenge for some individuals, particularly those with limited hand or wrist mobility. People with such limitations may prefer to use alternative kitchen tools, such as kitchen knives, to accomplish the task with ease and comfort. 

 

3) Limited Capacity

 

When dealing with larger quantities of spices and other ingredients, mortars and pestles may not be the most efficient method for grinding or crushing. It can become a laborious and inefficient task, as you may need to work in multiple batches. In such situations, it would be more practical to consider using an electric grinder or a food processor. These machines can handle significant quantities and save you the hassle.

 

4) Can be Messy 

 

Using a mortar and pestle to grind or crush ingredients for recipes can be a messy process, especially when dealing with oily or sticky ingredients like garlic and certain spices. Despite being an effective and traditional method, it can be frustrating to find small particles and debris spilling over the sides of the bowl, making the process more challenging than it needs to be.

 

5) Not Suitable for All Ingredients

 

Mortar and pestles are excellent tools for grinding or crushing many ingredients for recipes. However, they may not be the best choice for all types of ingredients, as their effectiveness relies on the user's applied force. Some ingredients, particularly those with tough outer shells or a resilient texture, may not break down easily and may result in an uneven or incomplete outcome. 

 

6) Risk of Contamination 

 

When using a mortar and pestle to prepare medicinal mixtures, there is a possibility of cross-contamination between various components. This happens when tiny particles of one substance remain in the mortar or on the pestle after usage and then merge with another substance during future use. Such an occurrence may result in unintentional interactions between the ingredients, which could potentially compromise the potency or safety of the end product.

 

Why Do People Still Use Mortar and Pestles Today?

 

mortar and pestle with mint leaves

Credit: Envato Elements/ viledevil

 

Despite the potential drawbacks associated with using mortars and pestles, many people continue to use them to this day for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is the hands-on approach to cooking and food preparation that using a mortar and pestle provides. It allows people to connect with their ingredients in a more meaningful way, and to create recipes that are tailored to their personal tastes and preferences.

Another reason for the continued popularity of mortar and pestles is their cultural significance. For those who come from cultures with a strong tradition of herbal medicine or cooking, using a mortar and pestle may be an important part of their cultural heritage. It is a way to connect with their ancestors and honor their traditions.

In addition to their cultural and culinary significance, using a mortar and pestle can also be a meditative and therapeutic activity. The repetitive motion of grinding ingredients can be soothing and calming and can help to relieve stress and anxiety. For many people, using a mortar and pestle is a way to unwind and relax after a long day.

Finally, using a mortar and pestle can be seen as a way to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. By using a manual kitchen instrument instead of an electronic appliance or food processor, people can reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint. Mortar and pestles are also typically made from natural materials, such as stone or wood, which are biodegradable and renewable.

 

Summary

 

Mortar and pestles have been trusted tools for grinding grains, spices, and medicines for centuries. Despite the convenience of modern appliances, many people still prefer the hands-on approach of using a mortar and pestle in their homes and kitchens. With its simple yet effective design, this ancient kitchen instrument provides a unique tactile experience and a level of control over the grinding process that cannot be replicated by machines.

Are you looking to improve your cooking skills? Introducing the Pepe Nero granite mortar and pestle, the perfect addition to your kitchen arsenal. Crafted from premium quality granite, this mortar and pestle set is not only durable but also has a beautiful, sleek design that will look great in any kitchen. Whether you use it to grind spices for a recipe or crush fresh herbs for a home remedy, the Pepe Nero granite mortar and pestle will help you achieve the perfect texture and consistency every time. Shop with us today.


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