Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Molcajete Madness - Seasoning a Molcajete

I have been wanting one for years, but I have resisted as the only thing I would probably end up making in it is guacamole.  True, it would be more authentic guacamole, but I find that a bowl and a fork work just as well. (for the most part)  Sadly, my resolve cracked, and I now find myself sitting here looking at a big bowl that has been chiseled out of the very same type of rock that surrounds my Columbia River Gorge home.... Basalt.

In the grand scheme of things, I am sure it would have been a brighter idea for me to buy one while in San Diego being closer to the border and all.  But then again, no one has ever accused me of being a mental giant either.  Thus, 1600 miles from the Mexican border, I have broken down and added YET another "gadget" to my kitchen.  (sigh

OK, that is enough of the buyers remorse....   at least until later.  (you'll see)

One of the reasons I have resisted the purchase of said Molcajete (mole-ka-HET-tey) is that I kind of knew what I was going to be in for, before I could even use the thing.  But, being iced in and unable to get out of your driveway gives you plenty of time for something like seasoning a Molcajete.   Cause that is exactly what it takes....   Time. (I will get to the blood, sweat and tears in a little bit)

Being made of a gas bubble filled lava rock, the Molcajete has the extraordinary ability to fill your food with sand and/or small bits of gravel.  On some level this will happen even if it's properly seasoned, after all you are grinding rock against rock...  It stands to reason that you will end up with some sort of sand in your food, right?  Think of it as a natural mineral enrichment to your dish.  BUT, if the Molcajete is properly seasoned, this sand will be minimized greatly.  (Unless you have mistakenly purchased one of those fake ones made in China out of concrete laced with quartz bits - They are worthless, making better doorstops than actual grinding implements for they will never "season" properly/  The concrete is just too soft)

So, how do you season a Molcajete?  Well, it does take awhile, so we better get started.....

First, you need to soak it in a big pot of water for about 12 hours.  (The water surface will bubble as the tiny holes fill with water and displace the air)

You will notice, upon removing the Molcajete from the water, that there is a bunch of sand in the bottom of the pot. This will be the easiest part of seasoning, just so you know.  ;)

Next, scrub it really well with warm water; a wire brush helps but a stiff bristle brush will work as well.  Then you need to let it air dry... completely.  Mine took 2 days to dry out.  Oh, the inside was dry in about 3 hours, but the outside was still damp so I waited.
Now comes the blood sweat and tears part.

You will need --
1 cup Dried Beans (I used Pinto)
1 cup Dry White Rice
1/2 cup Soaked White Rice
1 Serrano Pepper
3 cloves of Garlic
1 Green Onion
1 TB Cumin seeds
1 TB Rock Salt
First you are going to grind 1/4 cup of the beans in the Molcajete and avoid smashing with the Tejolote (pestel), simply turn the Tejolote around and around, until you have reduced the beans to a fine powder.

You will notice that the color has become sort of grayish.  That is the sand you are trying to wear off... So dump the bean powder and repeat with another 1/4 cup of beans, and again, and again.

That is the Blood....

Now for the Sweat....

Move to the Dry rice.  Grind the dried rice, 1/4 cup at a time until it becomes "rice flour", and dump each batch....

You will notice that each consecutive batch of rice will not be as gray as the previous one.

When you are about to grind the final batch of Dry Rice, go ahead and begin soaking the additional 1/2 cup of white rice, in some water.

When you have finished the last batch of Dry Rice, add 1/4 cup of the soaked rice. (Please drain your rice better than I did)

Grind this into a paste, scoop it out and repeat with the last bit of soaked rice.

Rinse the molcajete (scrub with a brush if necessary) to remove the final batch of rice paste and allow it to dry (since you have not soaked it, it will not take very long to dry this time)

And finally, the tears.....

Add the Serrano Chile, Garlic, Green Onion, Cumin and Rock salt to the bowl.

Grind the whole mess into a paste and let it sit in the molcajete for 12 hours.  (And the intoxicating aroma will find it's way into every nook and cranny of your home, making you EVER so hungry for some good guacamole that it will bring a tear to your eye)  ;)

Then rinse, scrubbing if necessary, and allow it to air dry.....  Again....
Now your Molcajete is ready for your first batch of Guacamole...  or Salsa, or even better, a Mole.... YUM!

From now on, just like a cast iron skillet, you will only wash out your Molcajete with warm water and a brush....  NEVER use soap of any kind to clean your Molcajete, or everything you mix, grind or crush will taste like dish soap.  Not tasty.

Me?  I am fixin' to make me some Guacamole tomorrow.   Woo Hoo!



Anonymous said...

Holy crap batman, and I thought seasoning an iron skillet was a pain in the you know what! Well now that the hard work is done, have fun dude!

Shane T. Wingerd said...

Thanks DD, It was definately something I don't want to have to do again... I would have went ahead and made quacamole tonight, as a reward for all my pain and suffering, but alas, my avocados need 1 more day in the paper bag before they are ready to smash. LOL

Patti T. said...

Where in the heck were you when I bought my Molcajete last year. I ended up throwing it in the trash. I bet I would have loved it if I had gone through the seasoning process as you explained it. I wanted mine mainly for "grinding" up seasonings and of course for guacamole.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get a "basalt" rock molcajete?

Anonymous said...

"basalt" is usually just called lava rock, often too soft and difficult to season effectively, stick with granite, similar cost much more durable.

Fantastic guide btw, couple things I'd like ot add that helped me.

After the first 12 hour soak I used my dremel with a soft brass brush to scrub it while running warm water through the mortar. Continuing until I had no "slurry" (gritty paste from sand+water) residue on the inside, the upper rim, and the pestle.
When doing the seasoning I actually only did half the dry beans and rice as I wasn't seeing ANY gray return at all, I only did that much to be sure to seal it for the later flavor seasoning.

For those who haven't used a mortar/pestle before: Don't add any pressure at the start of your grind it actually is self defeating. Move from the shoulder not the wrist will make it easier if not used to it. Once whatever you are grinding has broken down quite a bit you can add some pressure to grind it finer.
When doing the dry grind part it will help to rotate the mortar a quarter turn once in a while to maintain an even effect on the sides.
Again a GREAT guide, looks like its been here a while but I can't find anything else even close to as useful.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this. I found this article while resting from a trip from Mexico. I am in the process of seasoning my Molcajete. Thanks for the great guide.

George F said...

Thanks for the seasoning tips! We will enjoy this one for years to come. As far as durability... nothing I've done has injured it. We've removed as much grit as we can expect so this little rock can take it. It's our first molcajete and I've grown attached to it. I don't know about the granite ones so whatever. Just finished doing the chile, onion, cumin salt, etc. It is a labor of love. Everything went according to plan. Letting the chile "mash" sit now for 12 hours. Cant wait to use it for making the good guacamole.

Honey2two said...

I can't get all the rice and beans out of the pours. I see where some people say it's ok and not to worry about it, but won't that be a health hazard?

Shane T. Wingerd said...

If you would prefer to remove any residues, I would suggest lots of warm water and a VERY stiff bristle brush. Try to avoid the metal bristles, as it will scratch the "polishing" that you have already done. This will depend on the density of the volcanic rock your molcajete was made from.

TX Daddyo said...

Many thanks for this! It is laborious, but well worth the effort. After trying several abbreviated approaches that included wire brushes, and power washing, I found they didn't really do the job. So I took a deep breath and went through the entire process. This is the RIGHT way to prep a new basalt molcajete and tejolote. Your detailed description is the best treatise available anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I received my molcajete two days ago and have been grinding rice ever since. I am so thankful for your advise.I have followed every step, but still found sand in the "rice paste" phase. Is this common, Can I still use it? I"m not sure if I have an authentic one as I got it on-line. Should I continue grinding some more or can I continue to the last step? Last Night, before I read your advise, I seasoned it and it was very gritty. Sorry for all the questions. I 've got all my ingredients and anxiously waiting to impress my family.

Shane T. Wingerd said...

I would would try one more round of dry rice, one more round of wet rice, and then move on to the seasoning with the Chili, Salt, green Onion and Garlic.

Some of the Lava Rock used for carving these tends to be a more porous than others because there was more gas trapped in the molten rock when it cooled, so they produce more sand. While it's true that it might be made of cement and quarts, I would have to actually see it to know for sure, so I am going to think positive that it is just the more porous form of Basalt.

When using a Molcajete, there will always be a tiny bit of sand in the finished product, even in a well seasoned one, and it adds to the authenticity.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, spent the past couple days seasoning the molcajete I just purchased in Isla Mujeres. Your last step is spot on, that paste is absolutely filling the house with an intoxicating smell, since I can't make something NOW I don't know wether to love you or hate you ;)

Anonymous said...

Very very helpful! Thanks so much.

John Hulsmann said...

REGARDING THE FAKE ONES made of cement and quarts bits...........MURIATIC ACID or other hydrochloric acid can be droppered onto the outside of the molcajete and look for any bubbling or fizzing which WILL happen if it is made of cement/concrete since some of the requisite minerals in the cement naturally break down in the presence of acid. If you get no fizzing or other bubbling reaction, THEN you have a more legit molcajete stone material!

mlaiuppa said...

I am lucky that an online Mexican food supply company has an office locally. I called them and was able to come and pick out my molcajete personally. They even brought out several styles of tejolotes for me to choose from.

With my prize in hand I went home and spent a week seasoning it following your directions and the result was fabulous. I've made guacamole quite a lot since and it is always a hit. I like to serve it in the molcajete.

When I bought it I also bought a special brush for cleaning it. Looks a bit like a witch's broom only really small to fit in your hand and no broom handle, just the brush part.