Kibbeh mortar (Jurn)

December 10, 2013  •  Category:

Not 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).



17 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Beautiful! That is an amazing mortar.



  2. Nuts about food says:

    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. Belinda @zomppa says:

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

  4. Ozlem's Turkish Tabl says:

    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. Katie says:

    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. Ivy says:

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

  7. Amber says:

    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. Jimmy Rodgers says:

    I happen to have my great grandmother’s jurn that came with her from Lebanon in1908, which was kinda rare because of it’s weight. It needs a good cleaning and will soon be going to auction, as I have no idea of it’s “market” value as an antique original. Any information or correspondence is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,.
    …Oh yeah, I am 64 years young

    • Joumana says:

      @Jimmy Rodgers: I would not know either, sorry. There is a university in Lebanon, University of Balamand, which has published a few books on Lebanese traditional living and cooking utensils. They may be able to help you or know someone who specializes in these treasures. I also have an acquaintance, an ethnographer, who has opened stores in the country and worked with artisans who might know, he name is Noor Majdalani. She published a book on homemade straw baskets. Finally, the best thing if you do not want to keep it is to set a minimum selling price and sell it at the highest bidder.

  9. Nadia says:

    Hi Jimmy,
    I live in California and want a jurn (Lebanese mortar). I will happily buy it. Please email me if you are interested.
    Thank you

  10. Aline says:

    I happened onto this Post about the Jeren after going looking for mini-Jerens. Yes, you heard me right. I saw a picture of one that captured my fantasy and posted it on a Lebanese foodie page and now everyone wants one! Have you seen them lately? I wonder if you are even still in Lebanon 🙂 The picture I saw was of a mini-Jurn that sat majestically on a restaurant table filled with kibbeh nayyeh and two glasses of arak perched on its straight corners! I would have posted the picture but can’t leave an attachment here.

    • Joumana says:

      @Aline Hello Aline, I am guessing these are still made, either in Lebanon or Syria, but I don’t know where exactly. I would ask the place where you saw it, and go from there. I know a restaurant in the Chouf that uses the small ones (in stone) as a container for food on the tables and it looks spectacular. The name of the restaurant is Baytna, and it is off the main road that leads to the Chouf Cedar Forest, about 10 kms away from it.

    • PATRICIA says:


      I am laughing out loud because it seems you and I saw the same jurn today on the FB group! Happy hunting!

  11. Tim Langness says:

    I have one just like that I would like to sell. Located near Stillwater, MN. The family I bought it from amazingly brought that heavy thing with them when they immigrated to MN

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