If you missed the introduction and background about this delicacy, be sure to ready Part I.
Olive all'Ascolana (pronounced oh-LEE-vay) - Ascoli-style Stuffed Olives
I have eaten an uncountable quantity of these critters while living in Ascoli Piceno, and watched them being prepared, had verbal recipes recited to me, along with a couple of sketchy hand-written instructions. I decided to take the two most reliable recipes, one provided to me by my friend Linda Ancona, and the other from my former landlady, Dorina, as the best ones, and adapted them.
*The Ascolani have a set system for making their olive all'ascolana: 1) Hand-pit the olives; 2) Prepare the meat mixture and make it into marble-sized meatballs; 3) Stuff the olives; 4) Bread them and let them sit (or freeze them) before 5) Frying them. This routine works because they hand-cut the olive off the pit in a spiral fashion and reconstruct the olive around the meatball. I slices my pitted olives open and stuffed the ball inside, but Janie of Panini Girl recommends piping the meat into the olive with a pastry bag (a sensible idea!).
*Finally, the olives. It can be difficult to find large pitted olives that are not already stuffed with something. The Cerignola is a mild, large olive, but I have only found them whole. (A cherry pitter would work if you want to pit them yourself.) The tenera ascolana is cured in a very mild brine of sea salt and water, so you don't get a "pucker factor" from them. I found that most jarred olives tend to be much more strongly brined, so they will need to be soaked for a couple of hours to slake off some of the brine flavor before you stuff them.
1/3 pound ground pork (or chunks of pork)
4 to 5 slices prosciutto crudo, minced
1 carrot, cut into 3-4 large pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 3-4 large pieces
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese
zest from 1/2 lemon
dash or two of nutmeg
Heat about 1 TBSP of olive oil in a large skillet, and saute the onion until soft. Add the meats and saute until cooked, using a fork to mash it and keep the meat as fine-textured as possible. (If you're using chunks, just brown them and saute until cooked through.) Add the carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper, and then add the wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated. Remove from heat, take out the celery and carrot pieces, and cool.
If you are using chunks of meat, grind them in the meat grinder. If you used ground meat, put it in a food processor and pulse to get a finer texture.
To the ground meat, add the parmigiano or pecorino, the lemon zest, nutmeg and egg. (Dorina cautions to use a light hand with the lemon zest and nutmeg, as too much will overpower evertyhing.) Mix well, like you would a meatloaf mixture.
Fill the olives with the meat. To do this you can roll the meat into marble-sized balls, as is traditional, or use a pastry bag to pipe it into the olives.
To Prepare the Olives:
In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Place flour in one bowl, the breadcrumbs in another. Dip the olives in the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Put them on a plate. Refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before frying. Note: You can prepare the olives up to this point and freeze them for future use.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Fry olives a few at a time, turning to fry them evenly, until golden. Drain on paper towels.
Italians use olio da friggere, a liquid frying oil that is made of a blend of seed oils (peanut, sunflower, grapeseed and olive oil, I think). They do not use hydrogenated fat for frying! I use olive oil (sometimes pouring in a bit of grapeseed oil which has a higher smoke point).
Makes about 200 olives.