Homemade Kielbasa in Polish Sauce (Kielbasa w Polskim Sosie)

by Kelly on September 26, 2010

I hope you enjoyed my last Project Food Blog post.  Thank you so much for your support in helping me make it on to round two.  This week, our challenge was a fun one – to choose a classic dish from a foreign cuisine that takes us outside our comfort zone.

I spent a lot of time going back and forth about what I wanted to make, but I had a few criteria in mind.  First, I wanted to make something that highlighted my cooking philosophy.  In other words, I wanted to use traditional techniques and quality ingredients.   I also wanted to make the dish 100% from scratch, or as close as I could get without doing any animal rearing or butchering on my own.

And most importantly, I wanted to pick a dish that truly scared me.  Basically my goal is to make sure in every challenge I’m pushing myself to learn something new so even if I don’t win I’ll emerge a better cook and blogger.

Polish Sausage-1

I eventually selected Kielbasa w Polskim Sosie or translated in English, Kielbasa in Polish Sauce.

I picked this dish for a couple reasons.  First, I don’t feel like Polish cuisine gets a lot of exposure in the United States so I knew I, and perhaps my readers as well, had a lot to learn.  Second, this dish would require me to make my sausages from scratch – something I’d wanted to attempt for a long time.

Polish Sausage-6

To get started, my first stop was the Chicago Public Library to do some research on Polish cuisine and Kielbasa in particular.  One of the guidelines of the challenge is that we keep our dish as authentic as possible so I knew a little desk research would help ground me.  It’s interesting because I guess in addition to enjoying cooking with traditional techniques I like using traditional techniques when doing research as well, with the library, not the internet, being my preferred source.  I love sitting among the walls of books and leafing through hardcover after hardcover, their musty pages practically smelling of knowledge.

Polish Sausage-5

Thankfully, because Chicago has a large Polish population there were a lot of great books to choose from, including some cookbooks that are popular in Poland and have since been translated into English.  The trip turned out to be very educational and I learned a lot.

Kielbasa is actually a generic Polish word for sausage so while most of the Kielbasa we see in the United States has a similar taste profile and texture, it is traditionally made from an almost endless variety of ingredients.

It also has a rich history.  According to the book Old Polish Traditions in the Kitchen and at the Table, Old Polish cuisine was famous for its Kielbasas.  They were so important to Polish cuisine that in the 17th century a good cook in a nobelman’s house had to show his skill by making kielbasas in a dozen different ways, while an aristocratic cook had to know 24 different ways!

Clearly I don’t meet the qualifications to work in either household, but I do think I’ve gotten a little closer to truly understanding Kielbasa.  For my dish, I decided to make all-pork fresh kielbasa.  I chose this variety because in rural Poland, home sausage-making is very much still alive and even people who are not farmers for a living often keep a hog or two, so this variety seemed like a simple one they might make.

Polish Sausage-4

To make it, I ground together pork shoulder, fat back, and garlic cloves using the meat grinding attachment on my mixer.  I then seasoned with salt and sugar and combined with a little water.  The entire mixture rests over night to give the flavors a chance to meld and allow the water to be absorbed.

Polish Sausage-3

In the morning, I made the sausages by filling hog casings with the mixture, twisting them off, and allowing them to rest, again, before they are ready to cook.  Stuffing the sausages was the trickiest part of the recipe for me as the hog casings were a little bit of a pain to work with.  I was convinced I’d never be able to slide them over my sausage stuffing attachment.  I thought I’d end up having to cop out and make meatballs instead, but with a little elbow grease, a little faith, and a lot of patience, it finally worked!  And I was able to fill them!  I had real sausage.

After doing a little happy dance that something that easily could have been a tremendous flop was actually a success, I decided to cook my sausage with a Polish Sauce.  To find what I would consider an authentic or traditional recipe I looked at six or seven from different cookbooks, identified what the universal ingredients were, and worked from there.

Polish Sausage-2

The end recipe involved simmering Kielbasa and onions in equal parts light beer and water.  Once the sausage is cooked through, you strain the mixture, setting the kielbasa aside.  The resulting broth gets thickened with flour cooked in butter and seasoned with a little vinegar, some Maggi extract (A soy sauce-like condiment that is popular in Polish cooking.  It’s not exactly like soy sauce, but has a similar salty flavor that is good in meat dishes for adding more savoriness), and a little sugar.

Finally, after two days of hard work it was time for a taste test.  The flavor was worth it.  The sausage itself had a nice, clean pork flavor with a light pop of garlic.  It was also very moist with a nice textural contrast from the casing.  The sauce also added more dimensions of flavor.  It had a nice maltiness from the beer and a pop of acid from the vinegar that balanced out the richness of the sausage.

Polish Sausage-1

Overall I considered the project a success.  The Kielbasa were definitely time consuming so I won’t make them every week, but just knowing I successfully attempted and made them gives me MUCH more confidence in the kitchen.

This post is my second entry to the Project Food Blog contest hosted by Foodbuzz.com. I hope you have enjoyed the post and will help me move onto round three! Voting for this round will open at 6:00 am PST Monday, September 27th and end at 6:00 pm PST on Thursday, September 30th. View my profile here, and then vote!

Kielbasa in Polish Sauce
Adapted from Polish Cookery
Serves 4
Ingredients:

-2 cups beer
-2 cups water
-1 Kielbasa ring (about 1 1/2 pounds), recipe below
-2 onions, sliced
-1 tablespoon butter
-1 tablespoon flour
-1/2 teaspoon Maggi extract
-2 tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
-1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar, according to taste.

Method:

Add water and beer to a dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the Kielbasa and onions. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until sausage is cooked through. Strain the mixture through a sieve setting the kielbasa aside and discarding the onions.

In a separate pan, brown the butter and add the flour, stirring well to make a paste. Slowly add one cup of the strained broth, until thoroughly blended. If the sauce is too thick, add more broth. Add the Maggi extract, vinegar, and sugar to taste. Slice the sausage, pour the sauce over the top and serve with boiled potatoes.

All-Pork Fresh Kielbasa
Adapted from Polish Heritage Cookery

Ingredients:
-5 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
-1/2 pound unsalted fat back, cubed
-5 garlic cloves
-2 tablespoons salt
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 cup cold water
-1 package hog casings

Method:

Using a meat grinder, grind together the pork shoulder, fat back, and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients through cold water, working the mixture well by hand until it is well combined. Spread the mixture in a shallow glass pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, soak your casings in cold water for 30 minutes to remove any salt. Pat dry and stuff the casings with the mixture, according to the directions on your sausage stuffing apparatus, twisting the sausages into your desired length and shape. Allow the sausages to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before cooking. Sausages may be cooked using the recipe above, or baked. To bake, place in a pan, add 1/2 inch of boiling water and bake in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until nicely browned, turning the sausage once during baking.

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Victoria September 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I love this post! My father’s side is Polish and when I was much younger, we would celebrate Thanksgiving with them (on the South Side of Chicago) and my grandmother always made Kielbasa and Pierogies. Such a cool project!

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Liz @ Blog is the New Black September 26, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Impressive! Great job!

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Shannon September 26, 2010 at 8:44 pm

ummm, you made your own kielbasa??? dang. my grandmother and great grandmother never did that 🙂 now i might need to try!! we always had ours with mustard. When i was younger i always wanted ketchup and my grandfather always shook his head 🙂

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megan @ whatmegansmaking September 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm

um, wow. That is incredible. Just the fact that you made your own kielbasa should automatically get you to the next round! 🙂 I’m very impressed 🙂

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Niki September 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to make sausages from scratch for the first time for this challenge:-). I did bratwurst, but want to try a beef Kielbasa next – thanks for the background info. Good luck – you’ve got my vote!

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Kelly September 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

Niki – Nope, you’re not the only crazy one. 🙂 I figured this is one of those go big or go home kind of things so why not get a little crazy. The funny thing is I guess when you’re a blogger and a foodie this kind of thing doesn’t seem that crazy until you tell other people about it and then they think you’re weird and a little off your rocker.

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Kelly September 27, 2010 at 10:46 am

Victoria – I’m part Polish as well, my mother’s father’s family was from Poland, but sadly I never remember them cooking any Polish dishes for me. I came to my love of Kielbasa and Pierogi all on my own.

Shannon – Thanks dear. If you wanted to try making sausage, I think this is a good recipe to try. I originally considered a recipe from the book Charcuterie but it had a lot of ingredients I wouldn’t deem “authentic.” This recipe definitely has the easiest process and shortest, easiest to find list of ingredients.

Megan – Thank you. I’m blushing. As in a lot. I’m not going to lie it was a process and a messy one at that. (I’m thankful there was no video involved in this round as there may have been, oh a little cursing, and a bit of flying meat bits at times.)

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Camille September 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

Wow, homemade kielbasa. Yum! I learned about kielbasa being the word for sausage the hard way – I went into an Eastern European store in my neighborhood and asked for kielbasa. I was directed to an entire shelf of sausages! Anyway, good luck in Project Food Blog!

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Kelly September 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

Camille – Ha ha! I could see myself doing the same thing. It definitely changed the perceptions I had going in. Originally I really wanted to make one that would taste just like the grocery store version (because I really like it), but after a stern warning from one of my cookbooks that our US grocery store versions are apparently nothing like the original (which I guess is true of a lot of US reproductions of foreign food) I decided to be more openminded.

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Renee September 27, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I am so impressed Kelly! Your post almost gives me the confidence to try this myself…almost…Nice job!

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Amanda (The Culinary Passport) September 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for visiting my blog. Your entry is really impressive! You have my vote 🙂

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Amy (Sing For Your Supper) September 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

You get my vote for 3 reasons: 1.) your pink KA mixer, 2.) I love the title of your blog, and 3.) this post is awesome. That is all. 🙂

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Delishhh September 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I love this post. Not only did you tackle Polish food but also sausage which is pretty hard to make. Nice work! You have my vote.

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stephchows September 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

OMG amazing!!! I grew up eating kielbasa all the time but never home made!! I need to break out my meat grinder and make some!! voted!!

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Kelly Lenihan September 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Way to stretch your culinary skills! I have yet to attempt sausage, so I applaud your gumption. I very much admire your philosophy on food and cooking, kudos, you’ve got my vote.

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Whitney (Amuse Bouche) September 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

GURL. I need a meat grinder attachment like YESTERDAY! you made kielbasa, and all i could do was hum that tenacious D song in my head while reading your post. Please tell me you know what im talking about?!? Congrats on an awesome job, voting right away!

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Kelly September 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Renee – Thank you. You’ve been whipping up some great sounding dishes on your blog so making your own sausage isn’t as hard (or far off) as you think.

Amanda – Thank you. 🙂

Amy – Haha. Can you tell I love pink. 🙂

Delishhh – Thanks.

Stephchows – If you already have a meat grinder than you have no excuse not to make these. Seriously though, as far as kielbasa and sausage recipes in general go, these are pretty approachable.

Kelly – Thank you.

Whitney – You make me smile. 🙂 I have to admit, this contest has been bad when it comes to pushing me to indulge in more culinary purchases.

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Reeni September 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Wow! I’m so impressed! Great job on stuffing them – that part would have me worried. These couldn’t have turned out any better. Best of luck in this round!

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Kelly September 30, 2010 at 1:38 am

Reeni – Thank you. Yes, the stuffing part was definitely the worst. It also doesn’t help that so much work has been done up till that point so ruining it in the last minute seems like such a failure. Thankfully that didn’t happen. I’m generally not a patient cook so I had to summon up every ounce of patience I had to make that happen.

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Clarice September 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

If I make it to the next round, I intend to make Lithuanian food. You’ve given me hope I can actually do it. Good luck.

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Elina September 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Wow, awesome!! That would be DEFINITELY outside of my comfort zone. Just voted for you 🙂

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5 Star Foodie September 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Wow, how wonderful that you did so much research on this and made everything 100% from scratch! Very cool and of course I voted for you!

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sophia September 29, 2010 at 12:41 am

I already voted, but stopping by to say hi and that you’re freaking AWESOME for making your own kielbasa. So impressive, and I LOVE that you went for old-school research in the library, unlike me who looked up YouTube. lol.

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Kelly September 29, 2010 at 10:56 am

Sophia – I almost snorted orange juice out my noise when you said looked it up on YouTube. That makes me feel very, very old. 🙂 But then again, I am totally old school. Sometimes I think I’m a 70 year old trapped in a 27 year old’s body.

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@LickMySpoon September 30, 2010 at 1:11 am

OMG. You have really inspired me. I have that same kitchen aid attachment but have only used it for hamburgers. I can’t wait to try your recipe. It’s funny this recipe scares me too but seeing your courage and the outcome makes me wanna try. Maybe you can get into curing meats in the coming rounds?! You got my vote!

Lick My Spoon

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Kelly September 30, 2010 at 1:37 am

Lickmyspoon – Thanks. I actually bought it just for this recipe so I am looking forward to grinding my own meat together for hamburgers. So many chefs seem to rave about using a certain blend of meats so I cannot wait to try. I’d definitely love to include more of my meat curing (not gonna lie, just finished some smoked ham hocks and they are hanging out in my freezer).

5 star foodie, Elina, Clarice – Thanks. 🙂

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Marija September 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

Impressive!

Totally voted for you 🙂

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Yvonne, My Halal Kitchen October 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Hi Kelly,
it was so nice to meet you at Kendall last Saturday. I really like your blog here and am loving how you made these sausages. I have the exact Kitchen Aid sausage attachment and have been trying to find the time to make my own, with beef. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Carolyn Jung October 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Girl, you must have every attachment made for a KitchenAid. Good for you! And for making your own sausages IN casings. Very impressive, indeed. 😉

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