The name of Polish Kielbasa (Polish Sausage) is widely known in many countries. It is however sometimes slightly misunderstood. A lot of people seem to think that it is a specific kind of sausage. The truth is that “kielbasa” simply means “sausage”. As a consequence, Polish Kielbasa is a general term, which actually includes a variety of sausages made in Poland (and sometimes outside Poland as the name is often misused).
Varieties and regional variations
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 speciality. Of these, the Kielbasa Lisiecka, produced in Malopolskie, has, since late 2010 had PGI 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Originally made at home in rural areas, there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays.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 are a fine variety of Polish sausage that is air dried and flavoured with caraway seeds. Often seasoned only with black pepper. Originally kabanosy were made from horse-meat, but today it’s only a matter of history and kabanosy are pork sausages (sometimes turkey). The name comes from a word “kaban” which meant pig (a boar to be more accurate).
Polish sausages of the kabanosy type are dried, have a ‘dry texture’ and most often a bit of smoke in the taste. This kielbasa is quite long – usually 30 – 60 cm (12 – 24″), and very fine – with a diameter of about 1 cm (0.39 in). The delicious taste and unique look of kabanosy are the most important & characteristic features of this Polish sausage. Kabanos is most often eaten cold, as an appetiser.
- Kiełbasa Weselna – Wedding Sausage – This pork kielbasa is mixed with beef and double-smoked for a hearty flavour, texture, and colour. This well-regarded recipe was served at Polish weddings or other events meant to impress important guests. 30 cm kielbasa rings are stuffed in 36-38mm thick hog casings and flavoured with salt, pepper, and garlic, then roasted over hardwood logs. Best served cold. One ring is approximately 550 g
- Krakowska sausage is one of the most popular Polish sausages known throughout the world – one of the best in taste and quality. It is a roasted sausage, the recipe for which comes originally from Krakow during the sixteenth century. If kabanos is smaller than the typical Polish sausage, Krakowska is larger 7½ – 10 cm (3″- 4″) in diameter, straight and almost always consumed in slices as an addition to salads, sandwiches etc. As such Krakowska is eaten cold, but you can cook it, too. It depends on personal preferences and taste.
- Wiejska is a kielbasa in a ‘U’ shape. Wiejska is made of pork and veal meat, contains marjoram and garlic. Its name means ‘countryside-like’ from Polish ‘wies’. To keep its perfect taste, it should be thoroughly smoked as much as is needed, not evens a minute shorter or longer. This Polish sausage is made according to a traditional Polish recipe. The production of Wiejska kielbasa is based only on natural spices (black pepper and garlic) and a small amount of salt. When we cut the sausage we can check its tenderness, see large pieces of pork meat stuffing, supplemented with natural spices – with all these you can expect a great flavour and will want to eat even more of it.
- Kaszanka or Kiszka – A traditional blood sausage in east and central European cuisine. It is made of a mixture of pig’s blood, pork offal (commonly liver, lungs, skin, and fat), and buckwheat (sometimes barley or rice) kasza stuffed in a pig intestine. It is usually flavoured with onion, black pepper, and marjoram.
- Mysliwska Sausage – Hunter’s Sausage – is made of pork and beef. Hunting always was a popular sport in Poland practiced originally by the nobility and even then by only well to do people. A hunter carried a big hunting bag where he kept the necessary tools, honey wine and food that had to last for a number of days. Mysliwska Sausage was a relatively short, heavily smoked sausage semi-dry sausage that would make an ideal food or snack in those circumstances. Adding beef, prolonged smoking and juniper berries give the sausage its unique character and colour.
- Fresh Kielbasa – Kielbasa Biala – Also known as White Kielbasa, this Old-World sausage comes raw and unsmoked in 25 – 30 cm links of pork in a 36-38mm thick hog casing with flavours of salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. Perfect for boiling, roasting, smoking, or grilling on your own. Very popular at Easter!
The most popular kielbasa is also called “Kielbasa Polska” (Polish Sausage) or “Kielbasa Starowiejska” (Old Countryside Sausage). This one comes closest to what is generally known as “kielbasa” (a Polish sausage).
In Poland, kielbasa is often served garnished with fried onions, and – in the form of cut pieces – smoked kielbasa can be served cold, hot, boiled, baked or grilled. It can be cooked in soups such as zurek (sour rye soup), kapusniak (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. Kielbasa is also very popular served cold as cold cuts on a platter, usually for an appetizer at traditional Polish parties. It is also a common snack (zagrycha) served with beer or plain vodka.
A less widely encountered but equally popular variety of kielbasa is the White Fresh (biala – i.e. “white”). It is mainly used as a soup meat, and is therefore sold uncooked and unsmoked. When used, it is prepared by boiling, frying or boiling in soup in place of raw meat. This kielbasa’s taste is similar to a white Thuringian sausage. Traditionally served with barszcz bialy.
In the United States, kielbasa which may also be referred to as Polish sausage in some areas, is widely available in grocery stores and speciality import markets. While the smoked variety is more commonly found, the uncured variety is often available, particularly in areas with large Polish populations. Several sandwiches featuring the sausage as a main ingredient have become iconic in local cuisines including Chicago’s Maxwell Street Polish, Cleveland’s Polish Boy, and several offerings from Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh.
In Canada, varieties typical of Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere are available in supermarkets, and more specific varieties can be found in specialty shops. This type of sausage is particularly associated with the Prairie Provinces, where the Slavic cultural presence is particularly strong. The world’s largest display model of a Ukrainian sausage is a roadside attraction in Mundare, Alberta, the home of Stawnichy’s Meat Processing.
See also : Hungarian Sausages
Kolbász is the Hungarian word for sausage. Hungarian cuisine produces a vast number of types of sausages. The most common smoked Hungarian sausages are Gyulai Kolbász, Csaba Kolbász, Csemege Kolbász, Házi Kolbász, Cserkész Kolbász, lightly smoked, like Debreceni Kolbász (or Debreciner) and Lecsókolbász, a spicy sausage made specifically for serving as part of the dish Lecsó, a vegetable stew with peppers and tomatoes. Hungarian boiled sausages are called “Hurka”, Liver Sausage, “Májas”, and Blood Sausage, “Véres”. The main ingredient is liver and rice, or blood and rice. Spices, pepper, and salt are added.
In Ukraine the word is kovbasa.
These types of sausage are popular in South Africa where they are known as “Russian” sausage, often deep fried, and served with chips as a fast food meal.
Similar sausages are found in other Slavic nations as well, notably the Czech Republic (spelled “klobása”, or regionally “klobás”), Slovakia (spelled “klobása”), and Slovenia (spelled “klobása”). In Croatia, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, this sausage is called “kobasica” or “kobasa”, while in Bulgaria and Macedonia it is called “kolbas”. In Russia, the word kolbasa (“колбаса“) refers to all sausage-like meat products including salami, bologna, and the like. In Austria it is called “Klobassa” (similar to the neighbouring Slavic countries).