I’m back in the mortar and pestle game again. I once had a large molcajete from Mexico that yielded a few batches of guacamole and shortly thereafter was relegated to decorator status.
I’m trying again. This time I scaled down and went with a smaller version. Since I am short on storage space, I opted for a 1½ cup rounded granite mortar.
There’s a curing process that most mortar and pestles require before using that removes any lingering grit and debris from manufacturing. It is arduous enough that anyone who has gone through it won’t easily forget. Depending on the material and size, seasoning can vary. For many there’s a tedious grinding of rice into a white powder; mine included garlic, salt, and cumin to form a paste. Once that’s done it’s all rinsed with water and air dried. The mortar and pestle are never washed with soap.
Since then, I’ve been grinding everything in sight and it has gained a spot on my counter for quickly mashing garlic or a spicy blend or paste. My proudest achievement thus far is the Stone-Ground Mustard.
Mustard is fascinating, and the art of producing a condiment from it has been going on for centuries. It makes perfect sense to employ the timeless mortar and pestle—since its basic form is nearly as old as man.
I opted for yellow mustard seeds which yield a mildly hot mustard. For a tangier, hotter mustard, brown seeds are the way to go, or some combination of the two. I cut mine with a small portion of dry mustard for added creaminess and body.
The goal is to break open the seeds to access interior oils and such, while leaving some whole for bursts of flavor. Rather than starting with dry mustard seeds which jump and bounce about, soaking the seeds will soften their hard outer layer. Once you’ve got a rhythm going with the pestle, a gentle bashing motion quickly breaks down the seeds.
Continue to grind all ingredients and blend with enough cool water to reach desired thickness. Cover and store the mustard at room temperature for 3-4 days to mellow. As it rests, the mustard will thicken and flavors will soften. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning, if harsh add a few drops of honey. Store in a sealed glass jar for a month or longer.
Stone Ground Mustard, Small Batch
- 4 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- 2 Tbsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tsp shallot or onion, fine chop
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- ½ cup cold water
- ½ tsp honey (optional)
- Briefly crush the mustard seeds to slightly break down. Combine them with the dry mustard and 1/3 cup cold water, let soak 1-3 hours.
- Add the salt, allspice, and shallot to the soaked mustard and grind in a mortar and pestle, using a bashing motion to partially break down the seeds and create creaminess. Add remaining water as needed.
- Store in clean glass jar and let mellow 2 or 3 days at room temperature. Adjust seasoning, adding a dash of honey if still harsh. Will hold at room temperature a month or longer. Makes about ¾ cup