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Kielbasa is a sausage that originated in Poland but is now enjoyed around the world.

The term "kielbasa" was not mentioned in history books until the 18th century. It was used to describe a thick sausage that was heavily smoked and dark in color.

Today, commercially made, vacuum-packed kielbasa can be found in most grocery stores. Those will do most of the time, but during the holidays, my husband and friends have enjoyed making kielbasa in the traditional manner.

Making homemade kielbasa requires a lot of work. First the meat must be ground. The pork should not be ground too fine, which is the criticism connoisseurs have with commercial brands. Good kielbasa should be coarsely ground and contain small chunks of meat.

Once the meat is ground with fat, the spices and other ingredients must be added. The meat mixture is stuffed into a casing, and that is a tedious task and usually requires several sets of hands. Finally, the sausage is smoked, which enhances the seasonings and intensifies the flavor. Smoked kielbasa will also pick up the nuances of the type of wood used during the smoking process.

Last week, a local grocery store had pork butt on sale for 99 cents a pound. The weather was ideal for making and smoking sausage. My husband decided to make kielbasa just as he and his friends have done for decades.

Making kielbasa at home is a fun experience. It helps to have a meat grinder and sausage stuffer, but the pork mixture can also be made into patties and fried without smoking.

There are more than 100 types of kielbasa available today. I am always overwhelmed with the choices at Polish delicatessens in Parma, Ohio, and Pittsburgh.

Most kielbasa contain pork, but some contain beef or veal. Many varieties contain garlic. Some other common flavoring ingredients include allspice, caraway, marjoram and juniper berries.

There is a wedding kielbasa called kielbasa weselna. It is a garlicky, double-smoked pork sausage that is very dark in color. It is a room-temperature snack served at weddings to sober guests before going home.

For those of Polish heritage, no holiday table would be complete without kielbasa. Kielbasa can be enjoyed in many ways. It can be sliced and browned and added to other dishes. It is especially good with sauerkraut. The links can be baked or grilled for sandwiches.

If making homemade kielbasa, there will probably be more than can be consumed at one time. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Kielbasa freezes well and it can be kept frozen for up to six months.

Polish Kielbasa


This is a traditional Polish recipe used by my husband and his Polish friends. He added the juniper berries because this is a common spice found in many Polish kielbasa recipes. They are sometimes difficult to find and can be omitted.


4 pounds pork butt

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1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon MSG

1 tablespoon marjoram

1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons coarse black pepper

Natural casings


Cut fat from pork and cut pork into ½-inch chunks or run through a sausage grinder with ½-inch holes. Run the fat through the grinder with very fine holes. Mix meat and fat together. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Fry a small patty to check if seasoning is correct and adjust spices as necessary. Refrigerate overnight. Early the next morning, stuff sausage into casings.

The traditional method is to smoke cure the kielbasa for about 12 hours. The temperature should be warm enough to melt some of the fat but not too hot.

My husband smoked the kielbasa last week in a Masterbilt Smoker for 3 hours at 250° to an internal 165° temperature.

Note: If you don't smoke the sausage cut down on the amount of salt and MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is a flavor enhancer and has been used as a food additive for decades. The FDA has classified it as a food ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe,” but its use is controversial. Some people have reported adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. However, (according to information on the Mayo Clinic website), researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and the symptoms that have been reported.

Glutamates occur naturally in everything from meat, milk, corn and wheat. Glutamic acid occurs naturally in mushrooms, aged Parmesan cheese and fermented soybean products like soy sauce. Glutamates are a source of the “fifth taste” called umami.

MSG is a product invented by a Japanese chemist more than 100 years ago. It is made by fermenting starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses and imparts depth and fullness to foods. Less salt is needed when MSG is added, which cuts down on the sodium in recipes.

If concerned about the use of MSG, it can be omitted, but my husband insists it adds umami to the kielbasa and enhances and balances the flavor.

For questions about recipes or other information, contact Susan Maslowski at or go to Susan also has a Farmer’s Table Facebook page.

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