Fans of authentic salsa and guacamole are probably familiar with the historic cooking and grinding tool called a Molcajete. A Molcajete is a stone bowl used for mashing seeds, spices and herbs. A must have if you love preparing authentic tex-mex cuisine. But beware; these new bowls must be seasoned before use.
This special mortar and pestle - traditionally carved from basalt volcanic rock - is a common tool in most Mexican restaurants. In fact, many dishes like, pico de gallo, and guacamole are served right inside this rustic bowl so you'll want it to be free of stone particles.
True molcajetes can be found from many online merchants for twenty to forty dollars plus shipping but they are likely to be delivered to you unseasoned. That means you may even see grains of rock still loose in the bowl. The rough and unfinished look of the molcajete is beautiful. However the grit and sand it could leave in your first batch of salsa or guacamole is definitely something to avoid.
Here's how you can season your new toy. When you first receive your molcajete clean the mortar and pestle thoroughly with a wire brush and then give it a good scrub with a clean damp cloth. Paper towels are not strong enough for this task.
Next start hand grinding small batches of rice in the molcajete. This will start to dislodge the loose stone and make it a bit more clean. Repeat this process with several batches of dry uncooked rice until you no longer see any grains of black sand in the rice flour. You'll want to really use some elbow grease and grind the grain into as fine a power as you can. Again repeat. Any remaining rice sediment in the bowl is not a concern.
Then take a slice of sticky soft white bread and grind it into the bowl to dislodge and draw out more sediment. You may want to repeat this step as well before you are sure there is no more sediment to be found. It takes some people ten to twelve rice grindings before they are really comfortable grinding food to serve.
If shopping for a molcajete beware there are some imitation bowls made of concrete or pressed rock being sold as "authentic." Look for a disclosure that they use real volcanic rock. The molcajete is a beautiful tool for your kitchen and should last a lifetime in your kitchen. It was originally invented and used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztec and Maya thousands of years ago.
Once you've seasoned your new molcajete you can experiment and find modern and delicious recipes to prepare and serve in.