How to Grind Spices With a Mortar and Pestle
Mortars and pestles have been used for ages to grind spices and make dried herbal medicines. The rise of grinders and other alternative methods to grind spices have erased the know-how of how to grind spices with mortar and pestle from mostly everyone’s memory. But, trust me the aromatic spices that are the end results of crushing fresh spices in a mortar and pestle can transform your dishes! Go ahead, read up and learn how to use a mortar and pestle to grind spices.
Before you start grinding your spices ensure that you have the right kind of mortar and pestle with you. It doesn’t really matter how expensive it is, especially since nowadays you get mortars and pestles that are made more as showpieces than for practical usage in the kitchen! Get yours from a kitchen supply store. Depending on the size and materiel from which it is made, the price can range from $20 to $100. Stone, marble, granite and wood are just few of the materials that a mortar and pestle comes in. I prefer getting a sturdy stone mortar and pestle
as not only is sturdy but it also has a rough surface and this makes grinding easier. The size depends on how much spices you intend to grind in it. When you buy your mortar and pestle ensure that the set has a stout, heavy pestle with a wide base and the mortar has a wide base with thick, high sides.
Now clean and dry your mortar and pestle before using it. If you already have a good set at home then ensure that it is well dried and doesn’t have any residual from the spice mixture you ground in it previously.
Choose the whole spices you require and take the amount required for your recipe. Ensure that you take dry and fresh spices. Peppercorns, coriander seeds other round, dry pods, chilies, cardamom seeds, Cumin are some of the spices that you can grind in the mortar. In case your recipe calls for herbs like basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary, pinch the stem and run your fingers down the length of the stem such that the leaves fall into the mortar. When grinding wet ingredients like ginger and garlic, always peel them.
Put the amount of whole spices or herbs as directed in your recipes in to your mortar. Put the pestle on top of the spices and with the widest end of your mortar, apply a good amount of pressure on the spices. First twist the pestle slowly in the back forth direction and then in the circular direction. Meanwhile hold the mortar with your free hand and ensure that the mortar is steady.
Continue grinding this way until all the spices or herbs have been powdered to your satisfaction and/or the essential oils from the herbs and spices have been exhausted. When crushing the spices it has been noticed that the whole spices will keep climbing up the sides of the mortar, you just have to push them back down to the base of mortar.
Always grind your dry ingredients first and then your wet ingredients, this way the mortar is dry before grinding the dry ingredients.
Ensure that you store your ground spices in air tight containers in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight.