Molcajete y Tejolote's (Mortar and Pestle) are used to grind ingredients such as garlic, tomatos and roasted spices. The grinding releases the flavors better than just chopping, dicing or blending. This tool has been used for thousands of years to create salsas, sauces and ground spices. They are traditionally made of volcanic rock which has a rough surface.
Why a mortar and pestle?
Many people have started using blenders and food processors in the kitchen to easily prepare ingredients. They are great time-saving devices and have many uses but foods prepared with an authentic molcajete have more flavor. The ingredients are slowly crushed together and release different layers of flavors. They are an indespensible tool when creating dimensional salsas and grinding spices for use in your favorite dish.
Where can you get one?
Molcajetes are easily found online, sold be a number of merchants such as Mex Grocer. Or you can find a local latin market which should have some in stock or may be able to order one for you. Depending on your area, you can check your local swap meet.
How much should you expect to pay?
For a smaller molcajete you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 USD. The medium ones, usually around 7 or 8 inches can be up to $45 USD. The largest, heaviest ones which are about 12 inches in diameter will run about $65-$75 USD.
Make it a gift!
Package the molcajete with some jars of whole spices. Then the receiver can use freshly ground spices in their next dish.