Kibbeh mortar (Jurn)

jurnNot so long ago, every Lebanese home had one of those in the kitchen; called a jeren, this mortar was cut out of solid rock and weighed at least a hundred pounds. We had one;  my mother was fortunate enough to be able to enlist a cook (with adequate girth) named Apple (Teffaha) to pound the meat away, boom-boom-boom, for the ultimate goal of kibbeh-making. The meat was softened and whenever a white sinew, ligament or artery was felt, it was pulled out and cast aside; the meat had to be as smooth as silk. Then the bulgur and seasonings were added. All in all, a couple of hours of solid work.

Then one day we heard that a French appliance company was marketing a machine that would make kibbeh in minutes. Today there is even a UK-made appliance that  has an attachment forming the kibbeh paste into hollow balls (ready to be stuffed)

Still, experts maintain (and they are right), that a machine (food processor) cannot obtain the same results as the old-fashioned stone mortar. Clearly, a food processor does not extricate the silverskins from the meat, it processes indiscriminately.

making kibbeh nayyeh

The image above was taken at a wedding; making kibbeh the traditional way, this lady (who sells her creations at Souk el-Tayeb in Beirut) is back in vogue; here goat meat is used, as it is traditional and the leanest meat (even leaner than chicken).


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  1. Posted December 10, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful! That is an amazing mortar.



  2. Posted December 11, 2013 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Fascinating hearing about the past traditions. I agree, often food processors cannot transform ingredients the way people did by hand in the past. In Italy they say the same about pesto, especially because the metallic blades oxidize the basil leaves. I am sure food processors have made kibbeh-making much easier but if you make it once in a while, as a special treat, it is probably worthwhile making it the old way.

  3. Posted December 11, 2013 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    That’s no joke – you really need arm muscle for this!

  4. Posted December 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    This brings back lots of memories of kibbeh – or as said in Antioch, oruk – making at my grandmother’s stone courtyard. I remember all family taking turns and pounding the meat for kibbeh! there was also a grand old fashioned hand held machine to grind the meat and bulgur together as the next stage, lots of labor but so worth it. My mother also mentioned about these kibbeh machines but I am with you, nothing like handmade : ) Lovely post, as always, Ozlem

  5. Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    So that’s what they’re used for…. How interesting. I have 2 small ones for herbs/spices…. and I don’t have a food processor. OK, I did, but it didn’t survive the move and I haven’t replaced it.

  6. Posted December 13, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    It’s wonderful that there are still people keeping some traditions alive no matter how tedious it is!

  7. Amber
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    How interesting. In Pakistan we make Shami Kebabs, patties made from a mixture of lentils, meat, spices and water which is simmered till dry. Traditionally, the kebab mixture, after being cooked and cooled, would be ground on something called a ‘sil batta’, a solid stone with another stone to grind.This technique was based on manual labour and ensured a smooth, silky, pate-like mixture that was then shaped into patties and fried. Delicious but very hard on the arms and shoulders of the ‘grinders’!.
    Sadly, this technique has been replaced by food processors but those who have tasted kebabs made the old-fashioned way, say that nothing compares.

  8. Joumana
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    @Amber: Your description was mouthwatering! Interesting to see the similarities across the wider region.

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