A molcajete? Have you ever seen that rudimentary cooking implements typical of people with Mexican heritage used by many to crush the ingredients of a sauce or guacamole, and have you ever wondered why they don’t just use the food processor and go?
The answer is simple; believe it or not, the taste of the food is very different, which is part of the explanation.
Origins of The Molcajete is an essential utensil of Mexican cuisine goes back to pre-Hispanic times and has given a unique flavor to the gastronomy of Mexico; its name comes from the Nahuatl words: mollicaxtli and temolcaxitl, which mean “cajete for the sauce” or “stone cajete for the mole.”
It is a mortar made of stone or clay. However, the traditional ones are made of volcanic rock, which is carved in a concave shape and in which spices, grains, and vegetables are crushed or ground in small quantities.
To create a molcajete, one works with a picadera made of wrought iron and with which, after an exhausting search in the mines to find a rock of the appropriate size, the stone is chopped, then the legs are marked with chisel and hammer and then the surface is hollowed out.
The elaboration of molcajetes is passed from generation to generation; even many young people work in mines to obtain the raw material to learn to handle the stone.
The master craftsmen take five to six hours to finish the work, while the apprentices may take one or two days. To know if this is a volcanic stone, the surface must not be completely smooth; it must have visible pores. Whoever is sure of their product’s quality will let you scrape the walls with the shingles in circles; if there are any grey marks on the walls, find another one.
Before using the molcajete, it must be cured; that is, seeds are ground inside it until they are pulverized, and it is rinsed continuously until the water looks clear.
Due to its manual condition to grind the sauce or the ingredients, the molcajete allows for a quality that other mortars lack, and that is that when grinding the grains and spices, the ingredients release all their essences and oils. Mixing everything gives a unique flavor, something we would surely never achieve if we used a blender. The same ingredients can be given different consistencies due to each person grinding it to their taste, which allows each man or woman who occupies the molcajete to find an exceptional and personal flavor. The porous or volcanic stone with which the molcajete is made also gives a particular mineral flavor to the sauces.
Now that you know about the origins of the molcajete, you know the secret, the flavor of a sauce is not only in its ingredients but also in its preparation. It can be fried, raw, roasted, chopped, or ground. When the sauce’s components are roasted, it will have a smoky flavor, unlike when they are boiled; if it is done in the molcajete, the seeds and spices can be crushed and integrated better, releasing more of their essence. The authentic seasoning of Mexican food makes its gastronomy one of the most recognized and exquisite worldwide.