We received an email from our wonderful customer Catherine who asked us to create a Greek seasoning blend based on one from her family's recipes from the old country.
We are delighted to bring it to life! Thank you Catherine for sharing this idea, your story, and your family pictures that brought Old Country to life!
I come from a long line of mountain people. They were born on the rugged slopes of Gravia and Batsi on the Island of Andros in the breathtaking Cyclades of Greece on the Aegean Sea. They were, and still are, a warm and loving group of people who are also stubborn, sagacious, loyal to a fault and, sometimes, quite wild in their ways, just like the mountains themselves.
Growing up, they would ride donkeys up and down the mountains, walk long distances to draw fresh water from the well (something they were still doing when I visited them in 1997), and food, especially for the women, was an all-day event, almost like an Olympic sport. In the morning, they would gather wild herbs from the slopes of these mountains. I remember how fragrant those mountains were with the scent of wild thyme and oregano — potent it seemed the air itself was permeated with the perfume of these glorious herbs.
After gathering bushels of herbs, they would bring them into the kitchen and begin to cook. Greek dishes can be laborious to make; a perfect moussaka made the right way takes an entire day to prepare and cook; dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) is something that is made in a kitchen full of women, young and old alike, having several different conversations all at once over endless cups of coffee, for the leaves are picked fresh while the morning dew still sparkles on them, then the leaves are washed, destemmed, and boiled; the meat or rice filling is made and then the filling is placed in the leaf and rolled in a special way and, when this is done, the dolmades are cooked in large pots on the stove or over the fire.
This is why I call cooking in Greece an Olympic sport because in Greece everything is made from scratch and by the end of the day the tables are laden with several main dishes, freshly baked breads, soups, meze, salads and, of course, an array of desserts sweetened with honey.
When my relatives came to America, they brought Greece with them. I grew up learning how to make these dishes and how to season them correctly. My yaya, whom I am named after, was an exceptional cook. Every dish she made was delicious and she always knew how to season her food so that it was perfectly flavored. In America, as well as in Greece, there is a combination of herbs that are considered to be as precious as gold, and they are mint, thyme, oregano, parsley, dill, and bay leaf (laurel leaf) and, as my yaya always used to say, "Now, add a good amount of salt and pepper and there you go!"
The Greeks use black pepper interchangeably with white, it really just depends on the preference of the cook which kind of pepper is chosen. This seasoning is used on everything from roast lamb, souvlaki, potato casseroles, vegetables, seafood, tomato salad, Greek dressing and in all the signature dishes such as moussaka, pastitsio, stuffed grape leaves, and lamb dishes especially.
Another ingredient that the Greeks use on everything, quite literally, is the juice of fresh lemons. Greeks use lemon on their food like Americans use ketchup or mayonnaise. So, over the years, for the sake of convenience, I began to add dried lemon peel or fresh lemon zest to this combination of seasoning for a truly authentic Greek flavor.
From our table to yours, I hope you enjoy this Old Country Seasoning that has been used for so many generations in Greece and by the Greeks in America. As many of my relatives will tell you, this seasoning, in fact, dates back to the ancient world. - Catherine C., MA