The Real Kielbasa Deal

January 17, 2010

What we buy around here in our local Safeway™ and most grocery chains is not Kielbasa but it’s not, trust me.   Authentic Polish Kielbasa is a delicious delicacy that can only come from age-old recipes and careful production by master butchers and chefs. Sorry, Hillshire Farms does not qualify. It’s some type of meat that is flavored to taste something like the real deal. I am always uninspired when cooking with it because once you cook with the real thing it’s hard to go back to an imitation. Like so many things epicurean I guess.

Definition: [kihl-BAH-sah; keel-BAH-sah] Also called kielbasy or Polish sausage, this smoked sausage is usually made of pork, though beef can also be added. It comes in chunky (about 2 inches in diameter) links and is usually sold precooked, though an occasional butcher will sell it fresh. Kielbasa can be served whole or cut into pieces as part of a dish.

There are many types of Kielbasa that can be purchased including Dried, Kiska, Big Party and Wedding. The Wedding Kielbasa is my favorite. The cuts of fresh meat inside the already lean pork sausage are bigger and chunkier than all the others, not ground up like hamburger.  Each link is smoked to perfection and contains a bit more garlic than the usual suspect. As a kid, we’d do weddings and banquets where we served over 300+ lbs of Kielbasa in a couple hours! Tons of the stuff. The neighborhood (and me) would smell for a week.

Hapanowicz Brothers Market in upstate NY is a place where the Kielbasa runs like the salmon of Capistrano (a line from one of my favorite movies). Like me, if you’ve tried different Kielbasas and experienced the best, you’ll understand what makes Hapanowicz Kielbasa something special. In 1916, Anna and Walter Hapanowicz bought a grocery business on Nichols Street in East Utica, NY. In 1924, after eight successful years, the couple opened a second market in West Utica and the two stores continue to flourish today producing its 100 year old recipe famous Kielbasa and homemade cold cuts.

Knowing my wife and I were spending Christmas in Florida with my Mom, and knowing that we wanted her to make “her” Borsch soup like she does every year (sour cream based soup with potatoes, Wedding Kielbasa, dill, chopped egg, etc), I called Leonard Hapanowicz, one of the sons running the business, and asked him to ship a surprise gift box of the best mix of Kielbasa. Leonard wouldn’t stop laughing. So, for $142.00, including shipping, I received 50lbs (yes 50!) of all types of fresh Polish sausage. That’s under $2.50 a pound. I also sent a box to each to my brothers, whom I know considered this the best present under the tree – stinkiest, but the best!

I guess we need help.

Feel free to call or go online and drop my name. Tell Leonard you want the “Lichorowic gift pack”. He’ll treat you right. After he stops laughing. Good people.

Here are two of the easiest and beloved dishes to try if you’re lucky enough to have a nice Kielbasa in your fridge. They’re passable with Hillshire but the point is the right flavor seep from the Kielbasa is what truly makes the dish.

Hoppin’ Joshu

Joshu is Polish for John, so this is my take on the classic Hoppin’ John which alternatively contains ham. It’s been said that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings one good luck for the New Year. I can’t argue with the results

  • 1 tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Kielbasa, sliced into medallions
  • 1 Med Onion, sliced
  • 2 whole Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup Black-eyed peas, soaked & rinsed
  • ½ cup Brown Rice
  • ½ cup Wild rice
  • 2 tbs Parsley, fresh & chopped
  • 1 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce (feel free to get religion here)
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne (red) pepper, ground
  • ½ tbs  Sea salt
  • 4 cups Water

Heat the oil in a heavy 2 qt ovenproof casserole over medium heat. Add the Kielbasa, onion, garlic and sauté until the onions are golden.

Add to the casserole the Black Eye Peas, brown and wild rice, parsley, Tabasco, cayenne, sea salt, water and mix.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring all ingredients to boil on stovetop.
Cover and bake in the oven for 50 -60 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the peas and rice and is tender to your liking. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Note: You can cook this on a stovetop over medium heat for the same amount of time.

Kielbasa with Polskim Sosie (Kielbasa in Polish Sauce)

A classic polish sauce with consist of beer and sugar. Those that have it for the first time will want it again.

  • 1 cup  Water
  • 1 cup Beer (lager or ale)
  • 1 whole Kielbasa Ring, Wedding if you can find
  • 2 Med Onion, sliced
  • 2 whole Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbs Butter
  • 1 tsp Flour (more or less a needed)
  • 2 tbs White Vinegar
  • ½ tsp Beef flavored base
  • 4 tbs Sugar

In a large cast iron pan, add the water and beer and bring to a boil. Add the Kielbasa, onion and garlic and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the onions and set aside while retaining the liquid.

In a separate saucepan, brown the butter and blend in the flour. Slowly add 1 strained cup of the liquid from the Kielbasa pan. Stir toughly. Stir in the vinegar and the beef base and sugar and add the strained onions. Add liquid until desired thickness is achieved. Serve the Kielbasa with boiled potatoes and smother everything with the sauce.

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