Kielbasa

a-to-z-letters-kFor smoked sausage, this is probably one of my favorites to have.  Especially if you slice up some green bell pepper and onions and serve in a hard roll for dinner.  You can’t find good kielbasa without paying for the brand name.  But, it is possible to make your own.  All you need is a meat grinder, seasonings, casings, and a smoker to make your own without having to pay for a name brand.

There is more to it, of course.  Like me, most have only seen the prepackaged sausage on the store shelf.  While it is good, it isn’t anything like the handmade sausage.  Until today, I never knew the history behind kielbasa.

For this, I will quote from Wikipedia:

Sausage is a staple of Polish cuisine and comes in dozens of varieties, smoked or fresh, made with pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken or veal with every region having its own specialty. Of these, the Kiełbasa Lisiecka, produced in Małopolskie, has, since late 2010, PGI (protect graphical status) protection. There are official Polish government guides and classifications of sausages based on size, meat, ready-to-eat or uncooked varieties.

Originally made at home in rural areas, there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays. Kielbasa is also one of the most traditional foods served at Polish weddings. Popular varieties include:

  • kabanosy, a thin, air-dried sausage flavored with caraway seed, originally made of pork
  • “kiełbasa wędzona”, polish smoked sausage, used often in soups.
  • Krakowska, a thick, straight sausage hot-smoked with pepper and garlic; its name comes from Kraków
  • wiejska ([ˈvʲejska]), a large U-shaped pork and veal sausage with marjoram and garlic; its name means “rural” or (an adjectival use of) “country”, or (adjectival use of) “village”.
  • weselna, “wedding” sausage, medium thick, u-shaped smoked sausage; often eaten during parties, but not exclusively
  • kaszanka or kiszka is a traditional blood sausage.
  • myśliwska is a smoked, dried pork sausage.

The most popular kiełbasa is also called “Kiełbasa Polska” (“Polish Sausage”) or “Kiełbasa Starowiejska” (“Ancient Countryside Sausage”). This one comes closest to what is generally known in America as “kiełbasa” (a Polish sausage). Nowadays, many major meat packers across America offer a product called “kiełbasa,” usually somewhat different from the original.

In Poland, kiełbasa is often served garnished with fried onions, and – in the form of cut pieces – smoked kiełbasa can be served cold, hot, boiled, baked or grilled. It can be cooked in soups such as żurek (sour rye soup), kapuśniak(cabbage soup), or grochówka (pea soup), baked or cooked with sauerkraut, or added to bean dishes, stews (notably bigos, a Polish national dish), and casseroles. Kiełbasa is also very popular served cold as coldcuts on a platter, usually for an appetizer at traditional Polish parties.

A less widely available variety of kiełbasa is the White Fresh (biała), which is sold uncooked and unsmoked, then usually prepared by boiling, frying or cooking in a soup in place of raw meat. This variety of kiełbasa’s taste is similar to a white Thuringian sausage.

After reading this, who couldn’t love some good old fashioned Polska Kielbasa?

On to the Recipe!

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SMOKED KIELBASA

3 lbs not-so-lean pork butt
2 lbs beef brisket or chuck, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. green or white peppercorns, freshly ground
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp. ground celery seed
1/2 tsp. dried sweet marjoram or oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp. citric acid (Vitamin C)
curing salt (enough for 5 lbs meat)
1 tbsp. fresh garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup ice water
4 to 5 feet of real sausage casing

Soak the casing in cold salted water following instructions on package. Cut meat into cubes or 1-inch wide by 2X3-inch strips. Grind pork using the coarse blade. Grind beef using the fine blade. Combine both meats well and add remaining ingredients, then stuff into prepared casings using a sausage stuffing attachment of the meat grinder. Pinch and twist casings into links of the desired length. Tie off ends. Allow kielbasa to dry (covered) overnight in refrigerator.

Fire up the smoker and bring to a steady temperature between 180°F and 190°F. Smoke the sausage away from any flame for two to three hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160°F. Submerge the sausages in ice water for 20 minutes, then refrigerate for up to several weeks or vacuum package and freeze for longer keeping.

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