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I don't get visitors in the workshop very often, but when I do it's a real treat. In this episode I have the delightful Pailin visiting me from http://hot-thai-kitchen.com Pailin has asked me if I can make a wooden Mortar and Pestle for her to use in her kitchen and in her YouTube videos.
I have never made a mortar and pestle so it's great to have someone around who not only uses them but knows what to look for when selecting them as she can show me the exactly how it needs to be shaped and turned.
What she doesn't know, is that she is going to have a bit of a hand in wood turning herself so she can see exactly what it's like to create your own kitchen utensils and have that same sense of accomplishment as you get with cooking a great meal.
What Pailin has promised to do is show ME how to cook some delicious Thai RIBS and here is the link to that video to watch me learning to cook Ribs !!!
To start off with, I laminated 3 pieces of hardwood together using wood glue and clamping them firmly, and letting them dry and harden overnight ....
... To help speed up the turning process, I used my bandsaw and cut the wood into a cylinder, being careful to mark the center first and using a compass to draw a circle around the outer edge. Making the block of wood into a cylinder, especially for a larger piece of hardwood like this will really cut down on the time it takes to get even the rough outline of the mortar done. As it turns out, I even have a use later on for the off-cuts of this bandsawing cut.
Next it's time to attach the cylinder to my lathe. There are a couple of ways of doing this and I decided to use my adjustable chuck. The wood I was using was a combination of Walnut that was sandwiched between 2 chunks of Garry Oak. Very hard woods, and with a nice contrast to make them attractive as well as functional.
We started off by shaping the outside of the mortar. I knew that Pai had an idea what she wanted to I thought it would be a good time and a very safe project for her to learn a little about wood turning. She liked the idea of a nice heavy mortar and a rather large base, which really makes sense when you are using it to grind and mix. You don't want the mortar to always breaking free of it's stance. This meant there was not a lot of turning that needed to be done on the outside. I wee bit of shaping at the bottom and of course a nice rounded edge at the top.
Next came the much more critical part, honing out the inside of the mortar. Never having used one I didn't know what to look for which was why it was so valuable to have Pai around to explain what the inside should be like and how to test if it's working properly.
After taking away the bulk of what we needed to remove from the center, creating the bottom is what mortars are all about. They need to be wide enough to grind but not too wide the the items being ground get lost. The bottom should not be flat but should have a mild sweep with enough room for the pestle to move from side to side. Above all, there should not be any lumps grooves in the bottom, it should be even transition from the sides to the bottom.
After some tim and with a bit of testing and re-testing the bottom was done. All that remained was a bit of sanding and finishing with some mineral oil. We used mineral oil as it is perhaps the oil least associated with allergies and since the food being ground could have the potential of being shared by many, we elected to use the mineral oil coating.
We even to to try it out a couple of weeks later when Pai invited me to her kitchen to prepare some delicious ribs. Honestly, you need to try this recipe. It is not HOT, but there is a wonder little tang to the flavor and the ribs were soft and tender. To me this makes "going out for ribs" much less of a treat now as I can make my own at home and it the whole meal is done in like 45 minutes. Be sure to check out the video, and pop over to her YouTube Channel or here website for more video and lots more recipes http://hot-thai-kitchen.com.
Copyright - Colin Knecht