Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fresh Polish Sausage and Sauerkraut

I live in the Chicago area, where it’s easy to find great Polish food, but without a doubt the very, very best Polish food always showed up on holiday tables at my house, my aunt’s and my Busia’s (grandmother’s). To this day I swoon at the sight of golabki, (ga-LOOM- key -- stuffed cabbage rolls in a tomato sauce), hoska bread (egg twist with golden raisins), and what we fondly refer to in this house as “dusty noodle soup.”

In my last post I mentioned that Thanksgiving was always our holiday growing up. My mom took it over when she and my dad got married. In addition to serving the traditional turkey, her family stuffing (ooh, yum!) and all the fabulous side dishes you might expect to enjoy on Thanksgiving, my mom—whose mother came from Luxembourg and whose father was French-Belgian—bravely attempted to prepare fresh Polish Sausage and sauerkraut.

Her process—simple, yet delicious—is the same one I follow these days when I make the Polish Sausage and sauerkraut for the Thanksgiving feast at my brother’s house. It’s pretty fabulous and even though she didn’t care for it herself, my mom truly made the best Polish Sausage, ever.

Polish sausage is known as kielbasa (keel-bassa) and that’s what we always called it. Most folks recognize kielbasa as the red, smoked variety. I prefer the fresh, also known as kielbasa biala.

This photo is from the Polana website. I usually pick up my sausage from a local Polish-owned deli, but after perusing the Polana site... I'm sorely tempted to give them a try.

Preparing the fresh version is easy, and it was only after I got married that I realized my non-Polish mom had added an extra step—one that makes all the difference.

As healthy recipes go, this one is NOT

For a big feast…

The day before: Place 5 - 7 lbs of fresh Polish Sausage in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that the sausage simmers for a little while. Say, about 25 minutes. Remove from the water and cut into serving-size pieces. Don’t worry if the sausage is still pink, you’re not finished cooking yet. Place all the pieces in a very large bowl and refrigerate.

On the “feast” day – cut up bacon slices into small pieces and fry them up in another deep Dutch oven. When they’re crisp and sizzling in grease, add three jars/cans of prepared sauerkraut (kapusta). Trust me, the store-bought versions are pretty excellent. I prefer Frank’s Polish Style with Caraway. Mix the bacon, grease, and kraut well and keep it hot until ready to serve.

Here’s the extra step: About a half hour before serving, melt a little Crisco in a very, very big frying pan. (We have a specific Polish Sausage pan.) Add your serving-size pieces of sausage. Keep the heat on medium and keep stirring the sausages (watch out, they like to bounce out!) until the pink is all cooked away, and the casings start to brown.

Most folks serve the sausage with the kraut, but we prefer to keep them in separate bowls. There are quite a few of us who enjoy mixing our kraut with our mashed potatoes.

If you have any fresh horseradish on hand… bring it out!

My personal pics aren’t here because I won’t make this until Wednesday this week, but I can’t wait. Getting hungry already!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!!
Hugs to all,
My White House Chef Mystery series includes State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime.

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  1. This sounds delicious, Julie! And sometimes...it's really nice NOT to go healthy. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. A nice change from the usual turkey and ham recipes. Thanks.

  3. I'm sure the extra step makes this really good. You can't beat sausage with a nice, brown crust!

  4. Julie - Growing up in Western PA, where many Eastern Europeans came to work in the steel mills (like my Italian dad), I had many Polish friends and neighbors so I am thrilled with your kielbasa post! Here in Queens, we frequent a small Polish store that sells imported Polish foods and fresh kielbasa. We usually fry it up with a load of onions but I'm going to try your method. (I hit my forehead over the horseradish. Of course! This would be a wonderful way to serve!) And, boy, I'm a sucker for pierogies, too. Thanks for a great post and...

    Happy Thanksgiving!
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  5. Elizabeth - I throw all healthy habits (such as they are) out the window on Thanksgiving. Give me an extra helping of Polish sausage, and you can have my share of the pumpkin pie ;-)

    Mason - this is a staple at our house for almost all holidays. And for leftovers, it can't be beat.

    Janel - the extra step is what seals it. Really. My husband never experienced the browning step before he met my family and he told me after our first holiday together that my mom's Polish sausage was the best he ever had.

    Cleo - ooh, pierogies! Another wonderful Polish food. We usually save those for Easter. Ham, sausage, sauerkraut, pierogies. I prefer the mushroom and sauerkraut filled versions over the cheese option. I'll have to talk about them more here in the Spring!


  6. What a wonderful history to share. Love it!

  7. Thanks for this.. I cook polish kielbasa every christmas.. Your thoughts on polana kielbasa vs the deli in Chicago ?
    Which deli,. Think they ship to Indy ? I have a great recipe for perougi if anyone interested