A molcajete is a mortar and pestle made out of volcanic rock (basalt) that stands on three legs. It has been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times to grind spices and grains. The word molcajete comes from the word “mollicaxtli” which means stone box for making salsa or mole. It is probably the most used and loved tool in every Mexican kitchen and it is often passed down from generation to generation. (Fun Fact: the hand grinding tool or pestle is called tejolote)
A molcajete must be seasoned or cured before using it for the first time. To season a molcajete first:
Wash really well with water and a stiff brush.
Pour a handful of uncooked rice and grind to a powder using your pestle (tejolote). Make sure to use the whole circumference of the molcajete bowl, not just the center. You can add a little bit of water to the rice to make the grinding easier. Your first grind will result in a grayish rice paste. Discard the ground rice, and rinse molcajete.
Repeat the process as many times as needed until the ground rice is white in color and has no grit in it. This will take a while but will allow you to really get to know your molcajete and make it truly yours.
The final test is to grind 3-4 cloves of garlic and kosher salt evenly around the inside of the molcajete. Check for grit. Rinse the molcajete and tejolote and allow to air dry. Your molcajete is now ready to use!!
Beginners Tip: Place a kitchen towel under your molcajete before grinding to avoid damage to your countertops.