Sunday, October 4, 2009

Something about KIELBASA

You’d think that my blog being called Kielbasa Stories, I’d have more posts (or any posts) about the real thing, Polish Kiełbasa. If you slaskaare reading this and you don’t know what kielbasa is, stick around for a moment and I’ll fill you in. Judging from the keyword search analysis I have done on my blog, a lot of people are asking Google what kielbasa is, what the plural form is, how to export it from Poland to the US, if you can eat it when you are pregnant, how to make fruit kielbasa and the rest of the searches are from dirty, dirty buggers looking for some kind of perverted pornography. Yes, I know who you are.

What is kielbasa?

It is basically sausage and in this case Polish sausage usually made from pork or some pork and beef combination. There are so many different kinds of sausage that I will try to do a brief run-down later in this post.

What is the plural form of kielbasa?

The plural form of kielbasa would be kielbasy following Polish rules. If you are using the word kielbasa as an English word then the plural would be kielbasas. I have seen both kielbasy and kielbasas used in English and have also seen kielbasa used as an uncountable noun.

How do you export kielbasa from Poland to the US?

At this moment, I have no idea. Sorry.

Can you eat kielbasa when you are pregnant?

If it is cooked, I cannot see any reason why not except for possible heartburn concerns.

How do you make fruit kielbasa?

I have never heard of it and am wondering what it could possibly be.

Where is the dirty bugger porn connected to the word kielbasa?

At this moment, I have no idea and I’d like to keep it this way.

Some kielbasa stories…

My very first contact with kielbasa would have to be the supermarket in the US. After Misiu saw what we call kielbasa, he said that it doesn’t count. I guess then we have to say that my first real contact with real Polish kielbasa was in Poland and my first contact or contacts were not good ones.

As I have mentioned before, I could not speak Polish when I came to Poland and the town where I lived did not have any self-service shops. Anyhow, the butcher isn’t a self-service kind of a place, so I had to order what I wanted in Polish. My first trip to the butcher was in tandem with my new best friend from the airport. He managed to come from his town to my town by bus and find out where I lived (I didn’t know where I was going to live previously) by asking the 1st person he met on the street where the American teacher might be living. Of course, as it goes in small towns, that person knew how to find me (and could speak English). I was so happy to see my new friend and we hit the town to buy something to eat for lunch. We went to the butcher close to my apartment (ha, ha, ha, apartment, but that’s another post) and we decided to use my friend’s newly learned word, parówka. The Polish folks who are reading this are now protesting that parówki do not qualify as sausages and I completely agree with you. Parówki are hot dogs and who knows what’s in them. Honestly, we didn’t care at that point. We were so hungry and so happy to have said something in Polish and to have received what we wanted. We returned to my apartment (ha, ha, ha) to boil our hot dogs. We even had bread, mustard and tomatoes. What a feast! We started the water to boil in the one pot I had been given by the teacher who dropped me off at my apartment (ha, ha, ha) and then examined the hot dogs. Each parówek (I know that this is the incorrect form, but it is one of my own creations) was individually wrapped with a kind of plasticey-papery wrap. parowki Consternation…should we take off the wrap before or after boiling? It’s not like in America where every package has instructions out the wazoo including pictures and information how not to injure yourself with said parówka. I don’t remember what we decided but either way it was a risk. The parówki turned out great and we were really pleased with ourselves. We were also pleased that we had not blown up the building. I wasn’t used to using the gas stove yet. In fact, the first time I used it I had to go to my neighbor’s and through foreign language charades ask them how it worked. They were rightly scared to death and showed me at least 10 times and made me show them several times as well. I never did blow up the building but I did manage to catch my sweater sleeve on fire once like from one of those fire safety films from school of what not to do while cooking. If you have never had the opportunity to learn about fire safety from one of those films, then please take my advice and do not wear a sweater with oversized cuffs while lighting the gas stove to boil the kettle for tea. Trust me.

That was one of my first days in Poland. There was a whole year of potential sausage confrontations in front of me. I had to learn to order something other than parówki. The next time I visited the butcher’s, I chickened out and ordered chicken filets (filety). Later as I learned more, I was able to specify that I wanted the filets which were next to the sausages, not the ones that were positioned dangerously close to the hairy (yes, hairy) pig legs in the meat case. On another visit, I toughened up. I knew that I had to order sausages today. There was no way around it, but when I saw the long line of people, I chickened out again and went home to eat cornflakes without milk because I had forgotten to buy it and was too lazy to go back out. Finally, I managed to visit the butcher’s when there was nobody there. I was confronted with the amazing choice of kielbasa in front of me. I didn’t know any names of any sausages and I didn’t know any adjectives either to describe what kind of sausage I wanted. I just found the first one that I could pronounce and ordered (who knows why?) a kilo of it!! The kielbasa I had ordered was named after the street of the local slaughterhouse where it was made. It wasn’t very good.

I swore off sausage for awhile, a long while actually because I didn’t return to it until Easter time when my students told me that I had to try biała kiełbasa, white sausage, which is part of the Easter tradition. I had avoided this sausage until then because it looked kind of gross. It’s fat and white and looks like abiała big fat finger cut off of a big fat hand. Even after it is cooked, it still has an unhealthy gray color. White sausage is pretty good but it is raw and you obviously have to cook it first. Not knowing anything about sausages, I sometimes didn’t know what to do with some sausages that I had bought. Were they cooked or smoked already? Should I boil them, bake them, fry them or eat them as is? It was a lot to think about for one American girl.

At Easter time, I was invited to Misiu’s parents for tea. Misiu and I had met at work and I think he felt sorry for me that I had no Easter plans. His mother, my now mother-in-law, is a huge sausage fan but this was tea time so she served tea, coffee and cake. With my Misiu, there is an eating habit between us which I noticed at that tea and it still continues today. When we eat dinner, I eat very slowly and Misiu eats pretty quickly. When we eat something sweet, Misiu takes baby bites and I inhale what I’ve got and start to eye up his portion. It was true on that day as Misiu slowly stirred his coffee and I started in on the cheesecake (sernik, my m-i-l makes the best ever) and apple pie (szarlotka). I took a big bite of one and thought that it tasted a bit funny but who cared, it was cake. I tried the next one and it too had a funny taste, but I was hungry and a guest should never complain. Misiu was practically still stirring his coffee while I had finished two pieces of cake. He finally tucked into his piece. One bite and he screamed, “Mamo!!! You put the cake in the fridge next to the sausages again!” That was the funny taste. It was sausage cheesecake and sausage apple pie.

White sausage even made an appearance years later at my wedding reception. Our wedding reception was held in a traditional restaurant and we chose the “Wild Game” menu. There was a lot of wild pig, hare and sausages. There was even something call bread soup which was a kind of white sour soup (like żurek) with pieces of white sausage and bread in it. There was kaszanka even some kaszanka (black pudding or as some people call them blood sausages) but I said no thanks as I always do to kaszanka, flaki (tripe) and golonka (pork knuckle). To be fair, I have tried them all so I am sure that I don’t like them. At a cousin’s wedding reception, my mother-in-law even separated the meat from the fat of the golonka for me and I still didn’t eat it. It caused a scandal among the guests that I am such an American princess that I won’t even eat the meat cut up for me by my mother-in-law. Add that to the fact that I don’t/won’t/can’t dance and do not drink vodka and I am the most hated Polish wedding reception guest ever.

Although kielbasa is one of the first foods that comes to mind when you think about Polish cuisine, it is not easy to find in a restaurant. In our Polish family, we eat white sausage on Easter. We eat sausage with bread sometimes for breakfast okabanosyr as a snack. I sometimes buy Lizzie a kabanos when we are at the butcher the way some people would buy their kid a lollipop. We use kielbasa in leczo and in bigos (hunter’s stew) and very rarely we cook or grill a large sausage and eat it with mustard and bread. We never order it in a restaurant. We buy our sausage from a butcher that we know and once we even had a pig butchered and split it with my sister-in-law and parents-in-law. When we bought our house, it had a smoke room upstairs and one of my students is so fed up with the quality of meat in the shops that he eats only meat from his own animals and is building a smokehouse next to his garage. If you are desperate to eat some sausage not prepared in your own kitchen, you should look for it in two kinds of restaurants. One would be the road-side restaurant or bar. Another would be a restaurant featuring traditional cuisine- staropolska kuchnia. I tend to judge the quality of the sausage by the price. I know that my system is not perfect and expensive sausage can be awful too but in my experience expensive sausage can be awful or it can be good. Cheap sausage is always awful. If possible when buying check the ingredients list carefully. Some sausages can contain as little as 20% meat. Once I bought my mother-in-law a pretty pricey piece of sausage because I know that she likes good sausage. When she saw the price she exclaimed, “Who is that kind of sausage for!?! For people!?!” My answer which was not verbal, just a kind of look on my face could best be written as !?! If not for people, than who for?

If you are in the category of people and you’d like to try some Polish kiełbasa, here’s a list of just some kinds. In my unscientific research, I have found that sausages with the same name can be made different ways. The same sausage can be smoked or dried or even double-smoked. I thank our local butcher who gave me a lot of information which confused the heck out of me and with the final moral of the story being that every butcher has their own recipes. I have to stop now with the sausages because I have a headache.

Swojska/Domowa/Własnej roboty = homemade

Śląska = Silesian made from pickled meat??? with salt, pepper, garlic, marjoram

Wiejska = country style - smoked, pork, bacon, salt, pepper, garlic, sugar, marjoram

Torunska = Toruń style

Krakowska = Kraków style – smoked, beef/pork, salt, pepper, coriander, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper, a fatter sausage

Jałowcowa = Juniper sausage

Podwawelska = Wawel style - similar to Krakowska but a thinner sausagepodwawelska

Zwyczajna = regular sausage –pork/beef, salt, pepper, sugar, juniper, garlic, allspice

Biała = white sausage – raw, pork, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, marjoram, parsley

Myśliwska = hunter’s sausage - dried, pork/beef, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, coriander

Żywiecka = Żywiec style

Szynkowa = “Ham” sausage - thick and good for slicing like a ham

Góralska = mountain style

Grillowa = for the BBQ - usually fattier than other sausages

Kabanos = something like a jerky sausage - thin and dry

Pasztetowa = Liverwurst – often for spreading

Salceson = Headcheese

Mortadela = Bologna

Parówki = hot dogs


tłusta = fatty

chuda = lean

twarda = hard, firm

surowa = raw

gotowana = cooked

sucha = dry

podsuszana = dried

wędzona = smoked

PS I got freaked out once at the meat case when I noticed veal sausages called cielęce and then I noticed another sausage called dziecięce and for a split second I thought the worst. Cielęce=veal sausages meaning made of veal and dziecięce = children’s sausages, made for children not made of children.

PS2 In another visit to the meat case I found not dziecięce but dziecinne, childish sausages :)

PS3 When in NYC, we visit either Mazur Meat Market or Kiszka both located in the Polish district Greenpoint in Brooklyn. The line out the door speaks for itself.

PS4 If you know Polish check out this linkłbasa


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