Recently, green olive from Halkidiki were finally granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union (EU). A PDO product is given this designation/label to highlight the uniqueness of the product produced in a specific geographical region. Halkdiki is located in the northern province of Macedonia and if you look at a Greek map, you’ll see three fingers/peninsulas just east of Thessaloniki – that’s Halkidiki.
The Halkdiki green olives are huge due to the microclimate and the geograpghy: low-lying hills, lots of flat land and the sea being nearby. These olive have a unique flavour profile and like all other olives, very healthy for you. If you were to visit Halkidki you’ll be rapt with it’s beautuful azzure waters with sandy beaches but you’ll notice lots of olive trees (and vineyards) melding with the landscape.
The green olive of Halkidiki is one of the several PDO products from Greece (Feta being the most popular) yet even Greeks aren’t aware that we have unique food items that should be cherished and supported. Just this past weekend I found out that another shop on the Danforth (Toronto’s Greektown) will be closing. Greek House was in operation for many years serving the Greek community with Greek products since I was a child. I’m not going to get into why Greek House closed but let’s not waste any time supporting any other Greek businesses or Greek products.
Where will we get our Greek cheeses from? Makaronia Misko? Mastiha and mahlepi for our Easter Tsourekia? What would we do without Greek olive oil or Greek oregano? I can’t see a future without Kalamata olives…how will we make or Horiatiki salad? One of the purposes of this post is to urge you to buy Greek: you’ll be helping the Greek shop owner and supporting Greeks back home who produce these products.
I brought back some Halkidiki green olives last year (yes its legal) and I’m sharing a wonderful meze where you get the olives in two ways: one is where I take some ground pork and stuff them into the cavities of the olives then simmer it in an aromatic tomato sauce with a hint of cinnamon.
The second meze is taking the same green olives (also pitted) and filling them with a Graviera cheese) and then forming the same ground pork mixture around the olive. Ground pork on the outside, green olive in the middle and cheese in the center. The meatballs are lightly fried then added into the same cinnamon scented tomato sauce and served warm alongside the stuffed olives with sausage.
The sausage is really my keftedes recipe but I’ve opted to use 50/50 ground pork and beef but you could remove the casing from your favourute sausage and use the filling. The sauce is my usual tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic, onions, tomato sauce and a splash of wine. The cinnamon and dried Greek oregano are added at the end and the sauce is both sweet and savory and the olives and meatballs love bathing in it.
I love this meze, perfect for some Ouzo on ice and a fine addition to the appetizers you’ll be serving this coming Easter. One word of caution is to soak the green olive in water to draw out some of the salt from them. The goal here is to be able to taste all components of the two olive mezedes rather than just the green olive.
Halkdiki Green Olives Two-Way Meze
24 large Halkidiki green olives (or other collosal green olive)
approx. 1 recipe of keftedes recipe (I used half pork & half beef)
12 pieces of Graviera cheese (small enough to fit in cavity of olives)
For the Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, passed through a box grater
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of rip crushed/pureed plum tomatoes (or 1/4 tomato paste diluted in two cups water)
2 bay leaves
splash of red or white wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
pinch of ground cinnamon
flour for dredging
olive oil for frying
- Place your olives in bowl and soak for 2 hours. If still too briny, soak for another hour in a fresh bowl of water. Drain and pit with an olive pitter or using the end of a small funnel. You may insert the slivers of cheese into 12 of the olives and reserve.
- Mix the ground meat mixture in a bowl and fry-off a small piece to taste-test. Adjust seasoning then begin filling the other pitted olives. Place a handful of the meat into a piping into a disposable plastic bag and snip the end to about the size of the olive cavity. Pipe the meat into 12 olives and reserve.
- Now take your other reserved olives (filled with cheese) and take a heaping tablespoon of meat and cover the entire olive packing it with your palms (you should use just enough meat to cover the olives). Repeat with the remaining cheese filled olives and reserve. Form meatballs with any remaining meat.
- In one skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat then add the onions, garlic and sweat for 5 minutes. Then add the bay, tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper and simmer.
- In the meantime, place another skillet on your stovetop over medium-high heat and add a few turns of oil. Lightly dredge the meat-covered olives in flour and lightly brown on all sides and reserve on a paper-lined plate.
- You may now place the meat-covered olives into one side of the skillet and the meat-stuffed olives on the other side and allow the sauce to continue to simmer and cook the meat in the olives.
- Simmer until your sauce is thick, occasionally shake the skillet to stir the sauce and when the sauce has thickened, adjust seasoning, add the dried Greek oregano and a pinch of cinnamon.
- Carefully spoon the meat-covered olives into one plate and the meat-stuffed olives into another (both with some sauce). Serve with good crusty bread and some Ouzo on ice.
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