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mortar-pestle-msg - 3/13/09


Period mortar and pestles. Sources for modern equivalents.


NOTE: See also the files: utensils-msg, strainers-msg, iron-pot-care-msg, ovens-msg, spoons-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: habura at bcbp18.bio.rpi.edu (Andrea Marie Habura)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: mortar and pestile

Date: 15 Feb 1996 17:47:36 GMT

Organization: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Finding mortars and pestles: By far the best sources in my neck of the

woods are Asian markets. I am the happy owner of a Japanese ceramic mortar

with ridges on the inside--the only tool I have that can reduce grains-

of-paradise to powder in nothing flat, *including* my coffee grinder--and

a big ol' Thai granite mortar, which is better for crushing soft spices

like coriander root. They are also very reasonably priced.


Alison MacDermot

*Ex Ungue Leonem*



From: manth at ozemail.com.au (Aramanth Dawe)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: alchemy questions

Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 21:37:53 GMT

Organization: OzEmail Ltd - Australia


azdeg at imap1.asu.edu wrote:

>You can also usually find mortars and pestles at any herbalist shop (or

>organic food co-op).


I got mine as a wedding gift, but I know it was purchased from a local

Asian grocery store.  It's a lovely, heavy stoneware one that is

wonderful to use.





Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: shafer at spdcc.com (Mary Shafer)

Subject: Re: alchemy questions

Organization: S.P. Dyer Computer Consulting, Cambridge MA

Date: Sun, 4 May 1997 05:43:49 GMT


Mortars and pestles are readily available in any of the good kitchen

supply catalogs, with A Cook's Wares being one of the less expensive

of the well-established ones.  All those glossy catalogs with color

pictures don't come free, so it's not surprising that a company with a

very utilitarian catalog, printed in black on newsprint, will have

lower prices.


Mary Shafer  DoD #0362 KotFR  shafer at ursa-major.spdcc.com



Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 18:28:35 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - The siege cook challenge.


S. Noss wrote:

> When you honored folks grind spices for all kinds of things and for

> mustard as below - what are you using to grind with?  The old mortar and

> pestle or food processor?


> Shirley


A mortar and pestle is easier than it sounds, once you get used to it.

Failing that, go out and spend $20 (about what you'd probably pay for a

decent mortar and pestle, anyway) on two (2) electric coffee grinders.


Label one "Coffee". Label the other "Spices". Learn to clean them well.

They will be your friends. Those who don't drink coffee might need only






Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 23:15:28 -0400 (EDT)

From: Uduido at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - The siege cook challenge.


<< to grind with?  The old mortar and pestle or food processor? >>


I use a mortar and pestle for small amounts (e.g. less than 1/4 cp). For

larger amounts I use a coffee grinder (translate>spice grinder). For messy

things in large amounts I use the food processor or blender.


For small amounts, I would recommend the mortar and pestle as the flavor and

texture have a pronounced difference in flavor to a trained palate than the

other methods used.


Lord Ras



Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 14:54:50 -0400

From: renfrow at skylands.net (Cindy Renfrow)

Subject: Re: SC - Reducing feast fees and cleaning spice grinders


Adamantius sez:

>This little bit of wisdom is, I recall, the _very first_ thing mentioned

> by le Menagier de Paris in his section on cookery.


"Primo, in all sausages and thick pottages, wherein spices and bread be

brayed, you should first bray the spices and take them out of the mortar,

because the bread which you bray afterwards requires that which remaineth

from the spices; thus naught is lost that would be lost if 'twere done


Power, The Goodman of Paris, p. 223.



renfrow at skylands.net



Date: Sun, 05 Dec 1999 11:54:04 -0600

From: helen <helen at directlink.net>

Subject: Re: mortars and pestles was SC - mustard recipes


> The mortars seen at the Folger's exhibit were of

> the size we normally associate them with but the pestles fit inside like a

> glove and looked to be far more efficient for grinding than the standard

> apothecary forms used today by most SCAdians.


> Ras


I have just started seeing in kitchen gadget shops a small mortar with a larger

pestle that fits it perfectly,  that I want for better spice grinding. 10 -16

dollars in both ceramic and marble





Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 15:12:59 -0000

From: Christina Nevin <cnevin at caci.co.uk>

Subject: SC - Woodturned items


A while back someone was talking about the difference in medieval mortar and

pestles to modern ones, and I've found a site which sells a pole-lathe

turned reproduction of a 1660 m&p (OK, slightly OOP, but I don't think they

changed that much). The URL is:


There's also a lot of very lovely replica handmade wooden spoons, bowls and

plates on the site, so go check it out.


Al Vostro e al Servizio del Sogno



Lady Lucrezia-Isabella di Freccia   |  mka Tina Nevin

Thamesreach Shire, The Isles, Drachenwald | London, UK



Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 17:42:11 EST

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Woodturned items


cnevin at caci.co.uk writes:

<< A while back someone was talking about the difference in medieval mortar

and pestles to modern ones, and I've found a site which sells a pole-lathe

turned reproduction of a 1660 m&p >>


Visited the site. The mortar and pestle they describe is not much different

from those available now. They are, however, nothing like the ones displayed

at the Folger's Museum which clearly were composed of the bowl and a mortar

which fit perfectly in to the cavity of the bowl being only slightly less of

a diameter than the cavity itself. I'm talking mere millimeters if that much.


The interesting thing about the mortar viewed on the site, as well as, other

types of mortars dating from SCA period and before that I have seen, is lack

of the choices in mortar styles we are able to buy in the modern world

compared to those available in ages past. :-(





Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 15:35:36 -0500

From: Christine A Seelye-King <mermayde at juno.com>

Subject: Re: SC - The Mortar and Pestle Question


I, too, went shopping for a mortar and pestle the likes of which we had

seen at the Folger's exhibit.  I did not find one, but did find a stone

m&p at Lechtor's that was the standard bowl shape, with the pestle

rounded and fitting exactly into the bowl (quite snugly), unlike the

common wand-shaped ones.  Lady Tara got it for a 12th Night present, so

we will have to wait for her to use it and give us a report.  





Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2000 17:32:55 GMT

From: "Olwen the Odd" <olwentheodd at hotmail.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Marble - Mortar & Pestle


I have several types of M&P.  The agate one I have (had) broke when it was

used inappropriately (no they aren't supposed to be used as thrown weapons)

but I didn't like it overmuch.  The smoothness never helped and just would

NOT pit to give the friction needed to grind things properly.  It's just a

show toy.  I mostly use an old porcelin one from a chemist shop of old.  I

have two marble ones that I found worked pretty well after I roughed up the

surface a bit.  One of them is a tight fit M&P and the other standard and I

have a couple of wooden ones which I like for some things.

As for saffron, soaking is called for in many recipes to release the color.  

If a recipe asks for it ground, I generally rub the dried threads together

in my fingers.  This does well enough.  When making pie doughs, I crush them

not finely and set in the bit of water I use with the vinegar seperate.

Not that anyone really wanted to know, but you do now.





Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2000 16:49:34 -0400

From: Elaine Koogler <ekoogler at chesapeake.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Marble - Mortar & Pestle


I still like my suribachi (a stoneware bowl with sharp ridges and bumps from

Japan) and its wooden pestle.  Don't remember what it cost, but it seems to work

as well, if not better than most anything else.  If some of what I've ground gets stuck in the ridges, I use a brush to get it out.





Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 08:46:33 -0800

From: Susan Fox-Davis <selene at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Grinding mustard seed


Nick Sasso wrote:

> I'll hunt for a Japanese mortar . . . ideas where to find one to look at

> so I know what I an actually hunting?


The item you seek is called a "suribachi" and I love them.  They come in all

sizes from shot-glass to stock-pot.  The mortar is ceramic with radial ridges

on the entire inside, the pestle (surikogi) is wood and can be bought

separately when you need to replace it.  I saw these for the first time on

"Iron Chef" TV show and had to have a set.



Selene Colfox

selene at earthlink.net



From: Robyn.Hodgkin at affa.gov.au

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Subject: RE: [Sca-cooks] cleaning mortars

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 10:27:55 +1100


My recommendation would be to use bicarbonate of soda.  If it is a wettable mortar, make it into a thick paste with water.  Put this into the mortar and grind it around a bit with the pestle to cover both with a decent layer. Leave it for 20 minutes and rinse it out.  If you still aren't happy, give the same treatment a go but add vinegar to rinse it out; it will foam in the coolest way, and between the vinegar and bicarb should get rid of the last of the flavour/smell. (maybe leaving it smelling like vinegar!)


Bicarb is just the very best thing for absorbing flavours and smells. I keep a cup of it in the fridge to absorb fridge smells and have used it with great success as a paste on plastic containers that have absorbed garlic smells.





From: "Saber Sobey" <sabersobey at ntlworld.com>

Date: Wed May 28, 2003  7:43:47 AM US/Central

To: <stefan at florilegium.org>

Subject: Cleaning Brass Mortar and Pestle


One of the best methods of cleaning a brass mortar and pestle is to use half a lemon dipped in charcoal ash and gently rub all over the M & P and rinse in clean water.  Dry after cleaning.





Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2007 19:08:40 -0500

From: "Cassandra Baldassano" <euriol at ptd.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Mustard - Can you cut it?

To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I've been playing with three different mortar & pestles over the last couple

of years (marble, stone, unglazed porcelain). When I teach my sauces class,

I have a bit of mustard seed in each type. I find the best result is to

start grinding the mustard seed with the stone mortar & pestle, then finish

it off in the unglazed porcelain to provide the finer grind.




Euriol of Lothian, OP

Minister of Arts & Sciences, Barony of Endless Hills

Clerk, Order of the Pelican, Kingdom of ?thelmearc



Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 10:44:09 -0500

From: "Daniel & Elizabeth Phelps" <dephelps at embarqmail.com>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Cast Iron Mortar

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


Of possible interest from an odd source.







Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 12:06:14 -0500

From: "Kingstaste" <kingstaste at comcast.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] mortar and pestle questions

To: <renechaisson at yahoo.com>,        "'Cooks within the SCA'"

        <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


<<< I'm on the hunt for a good mortar and pestle set and need advice. What is

better for practical uses? Wood, porcelain, stone? What about size? Would a

smaller one grind more completely, and would a larger one just stir things

around without really grinding them?

Tia >>>


Speaking as someone that has about half a dozen mortar and pestles, I think

I like my marble ones best.  They are polished smooth on the outside, and

left smooth but unpolished on the inside.  They grind things to a powder

easily, and I have different sizes - small ones for things like pills and

seeds, larger ones for chunkier objects.  I got my big one on my honeymoon,

it weighs about 4 pounds and has a bowl that holds not quite 2 cups.

I just acquired one that was someone's grandfather's, she says he used it

for peppercorns mostly.  It looks like it is made from lava/igneous rock,

and it is very porous.  I tried grinding a few black beans in it (because

they were there, not because I needed ground raw black bean powder for

anything) and I am still trying to get stuff out of the pits in the rock

surface. Cute, but not something I'll use often.  I have smooth wooden

ones, they aren't good for much but crunching up very crispy things.


I have a Japanese one with grooves on the bottom which is good for making a paste of certain wet herbs/vegetables, as well as another daikon shredder with

points on the bottom, but that are for grating rather than pulverizing.

I've also worked with porcelain bowls, they grind well but tend to be more



Happy hunting, and you KNOW you won't stop at just one!





Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 11:56:24 -0600

From: "Chass Brown" <charinthalis at sbcglobal.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] mortar and pestle questions

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I prefer my cast iron mortar and pestle. I can crush anything.. easily

cleaned... use it all the time.. we have 6 different types of them,.,. from

porcelen, to lava rock etc. Each has its own use.... like i have a wooden

one for each of my italian cooking herbs... but only that herb gets used in



Chass/ Charinthalis Del Sans



Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 10:04:03 -0800

From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at jeffnet.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] mortar and pestle questions

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I have one small marble one, and one small porcelain one. Regina has a

couple of big wooden ones. I use my marble one the most, but I pull down

her big wooden one to grind long pepper in- about the only way I can do

it is to sit on the kitchen floor with the mortar between my legs, so I

can put my weight into it. Only way I've ever been able to grind the

durn things.





Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 11:25:23 -0700

From: "S CLEMENGER" <sclemenger at msn.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] mortar and pestle questions

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I've got a porcelain one (I think).  I don't much care for it--can't grind

things worth a darn it.  I generally "cheat" and use electric

appliances--I've got a coffee grinder specifically for spices, etc.





Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 13:35:18 -0600

From: "Daniel & Elizabeth Phelps" <dephelps at embarqmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] mortar and pestle questions

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


Posted the link below a while back.  Tis a link to a cast iron mortar that

holds a pint.  Odd source...  a minerals prospecting supply company.  Have

several mortar... three wooden ones in various sizes, one very small ceramic

one and one of those ceramic Japanese ones with the ridges.  Use the narrow

throated wooden one and the small very flat ceramic one mostly.







Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 20:33:48 +0100

From: "Susanne Mayer" <susanne.mayer5 at chello.at>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Mortar and long pepper

To: <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I have one made from  granite, which i had to wash quite often to get rid of

the stone taste, but works wonderfully (big, hard and crunches up about

every thing). A smaller one of green stone {probably Nephrite, as I bought

it from an India shop, said shop has also an grinding board (like the early

bronze age board fro grinding wheat flour I will buy eventually) }, use for

small amount of herbs. Some wooden ones, used only for crunchy herbs, like

Rosemary, Thyme or sage. and my trusty travel mortar a very small porcelaine



I really would like an iron one (some food was cooked in this, mostly fired

in lard stuff).


I would also like a bronze one but they are EXPENSIVE!


Regards Katharina


PS long pepper:


I first cut the cones into smaller pieces before I grind them (or put them,

very un-Period, into a modern pepper mill with ceramic grinder), this works

pretty well.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org