Polish cuisine is a product of long history and comes in variety of dishes, tastes and flavors. Different regions have contributed their own specialities of Polish food. And not just regions. Throughout centuries Poland has been home to many guests of other nations. This is why French, Italian, German, Ukrainian, Jewish and even Oriental influences are present in Polish cooking. And modern cooks keep adding their own ideas.
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 abused).
Each time you want to buy or talk about a specific kind of Polish Kielbasa, you should know its name.
Polish Kielbasa (Polish Sausages) and black pudding - streetmarket trading
And there are a lot of those, e.g. ‘kielbasa krakowska’ (Krakowska Sausage), ‘kielbasa lisiecka’ (Lisiecka Sausage), ‘kielbasa wiejska’ (Wiejska Sausage) and so on.
Polish Kielbasa Wiejska (Polish Wiejska Sausage)
It is not only the variety of names that may be confusing. To make matters worse, quite different products from different places can go by the same name. For example ‘kielbasa krakowska’ doesn’t have to be made in Krakow (Cracow) or its vicinity, as the name would imply, and different producers may use different recipes.
Kielbasa Lisiecka (Lisiecka Sausage)
Some part of the problem lies in that the names and geographic origins of Polish Kielbasa are not protected. When you drink, say, Californian wine, you can be certain it was made in California. By contrast, a ‘kielbasa krakowska’ may have been made in Krakow, Warsaw or Chicago and can be great or rather so-so. But don’t be discouraged by this little difficulty. When you want a good Polish Kielbasa, you just have to know both its own and its producer’s names. And when you do, there’s no reason to give up enjoying this great Polish special – Polish Sausage.
For a general name there must be a general description. ‘Kielbasa’ is made of pork meat with the addition of salt and other spices and herbs. Sometimes different kinds of meat are used, either as addition to pork or instead of it. In the latter case, the term “kielbasa” becomes rather stretched. Among herbs and spices, the most frequent are garlic, pepper and marjoram. ‘Kielbasa’ is most often smoked.
Polish Kielbasa, headcheese, black pudding, lard
To put it all together, there are three things which determine the taste and quality of Polish Sausages: the quality of pork used, kinds and quantities of spices and the production process (especially how long it is smoked). Sounds quite simple? So it should. But as a result we get a wonderful variety of Polish Kielbasas. From thick hot-smoked and dried ‘Krakowska Sucha’ to delicate ‘Kielbasa Lisiecka’, from thin, flavory ‘Kabanos’ to soft ‘Biala Kielbasa’ (white sausage) , there is really much to choose from.
In Poland kielbasa is very often boiled or fried. And, as you might have expected, some kinds of it are better boiled and some more tasty when they’re fried. ‘Kielbasa’ is served with bread and mustard, often with fried onion. Horseradish makes a great condiment to some Polish sausages. And ‘Biala Kielbasa’ is often enjoyed with potatoes and sauerkraut. Polish sausages can usually also be eaten without heating. It’s a customary way of enjoying ‘a kabanos’ for example.
One tradition which Poles love is having ‘kielbasa’ by campfire. It is then put on skewers and kept by the fire until it’s done. This way of preparing and eating sausages is considered great fun. Open air and the smell of smoke make ‘kielbasa’ taste really awesome. A good company and a sip of beer complete the feast.
How to say 'Kielbasa' in Polish? Click the green button below to hear it!
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