Homemade Kielbasa: Easy Recipe
Nothing compares to the taste and texture of homemade Kielbasa. Maybe it’s the fresh garlic, herbs and spices used, or the time, care and love cooks put into it when we are making kielbasa for family and friends. It might also be the unique ingredients and flavors imbued in the recipes for kielbasa developed in the old country and passed down from one generation to another until it finally arrives at our table. Whatever it is, this recipe for homemade kielbasa will have your taste buds jumping for joy.
Preparing the unique combination of roughly chopped, perfectly seasoned pork, ground beef, herbs and spices by hand, stuffing them into natural pork casing and using a live fire to smoke them produces sausages with a meaty, smoky taste, coarse texture and distinctive snap when you bite into them. Eating this traditional kielbasa transports me to a simpler time when my Polish ancestors regularly gathered around a communal table and shared the sustenance, stories and traditions that helped to keep them strong, united and able to face anything the world threw at them.
In Poland, kielbasa is a generic word for sausage, but this homemade kielbasa is light years away from generic.
What You Will Need For This Recipe
This is a recipe for making 50 pounds of kielbasa. That produces about 45 of the tasty Polish sausages. This is enough for a holiday feast for a large group of family members and friends. Most of these ingredients are available at any good supermarket. You may have to make a special trip to your favorite butcher shop to get the rough cut pork butt, ground chuck and pork casings. If you plan to smoke the kielbasa rather than eating it fresh, you can add Cure #1 and leave out the mustard seed. When I used this recipe to make homemade kielbasa, I used the mustard seed even though I planned to smoke the sausages. It was great and many of the guests asked for the recipe I used.
If you are smoking the kielbasa only use 8 ounces of salt.
The original recipe called for using 1/4 teaspoon of Cure #1 per 1 pound of meat. I modified it to the standard 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat.
Brownulated sugar mixes great without clumping. You can also use substitute Turbinado sugar.
Directions For Making Kielbasa
Step One: Choosing The Meat
The meat you choose is very important. Get the best, freshest meat possible. The better and fresher the meat is, the better the taste of the kielbasa. Some people like a little fat in their meat. They say it adds a little moisture and some additional flavor. Others want all lean meat in their sausage. I like using natural hog casings for my kielbasa. They're available at the meat counter of most good grocery stores. While they're not usually on display, just ask for them and they'll happily get them for you.
Step Two: Preparing The Meat
The next step is to slice narrow strips of the pork and cut those strips into thirds. This will create large chunks. Then grind the pork using a medium size plate in the grinder. This grinds the meat coarse. When making traditional homemade kielbasa, the meat should be a little chunky. This is where commercial kielbasa with its smooth, mealy texture is inferior to hearty, substantial, homemade, traditional version. Once you grind the meat, it's time to add the spices. Mix the salt, Cure #1, sugar, black pepper, garlic, onion powder, mustard seed and water and mix thoroughly into the meat.
Pro Tip: Some people knead the meat and seasonings together. They say the more you knead the mixture, the more tender the meat in the sausage will be after it's cooked.
Once the spices are mixed with the meat, let the mixture marinate overnight. This gives the spices an opportunity to better infuse the beef and pork.
Pro Tip: Some recommend adding 4 or 5 ice cubes to the mixture to ensure it will not be dry and hard when it is cooked.
Step Three: Stuffing The Casings
When the meat is prepared and you are ready to stuff it into the casing, you should make sure to soak the casing in warm water first. This makes them more flexible. Pork casings are packaged in salt. So, once the casing have been rehydrated and become flexible, you should rinse them three or four times to ensure you remove as much of the unwanted salt as possible. You can do this by putting one end of the casing on the faucet, letting the warm water run through the inside and flushing out the salt. The casings can then be cut it into 4 foot lengths to prepare them to be stuffed with the mixture of beef, pork and a variety of spices.
Pro Tip: To make it easier to stuff the ground meat into the casings, put the ground up meat into the freezer for about an hour. That makes the meat a little stiffer and allows it to pass through the grinder easier.
Stuffing the casings is a delicate process. If it's loaded too fast or is overloaded, they can break. Loading them slowly is the key. When the casing is full, it should feel slightly firm without being too tight.
Pro Tip: Before putting the casing on the horn to be filled with ground meat, put a small amount of oil on your hand, run it over the face of the horn where the meat comes out, then ease the casing onto the horn. Slowly fill the casing and tie it off between 12 and 16 inches long.
Once the sausages have been stuffed and tied, hang them up for a few hours at room temperature so they can dry.
Step Four: Preparing The Smoker
To properly cook the kielbasa and add that delicious smoky flavor, your smoker must maintain a temperature of 165 degrees until the kielbasa's internal temperature gets to 155 degrees. It must also contain the right wood chips to impart the smoky flavor many people love in their kielbasa. The smoky flavor acts like a seasoning and there's no substitute for it. For people with charcoal or wood smokers, all it takes to create flavorful smoke is to add some cherry or apple wood chunks to the fire.
Pro Tip: People with gas or electric smokers can use a tin can containing wood chips or an inexpensive smoke generation device.
Pro Tip: Use a propane torch that has a pencil flame head to light the wood chips.
Pro Tip: Be sure to use quality pellets made from 100% wood in the flavor you want. Stay away from chips containing binders or fillers.
The key to creating the most flavorful kielbasa sausage is a consistently low temperature. Smoking the kielbasa at between 160-165F is ideal.
Pro Tip: Some people find digital smokers to be best for maintaining the proper temperature. Propane smokers fitted with a needle valve also work well.
Step Five: Smoking The Sausages
Once the temperature in the smoker has reached 165 degrees, put in the sausages and leave them for three to four hours. That gives the internal temperature of the sausages to reach 152 degrees and the smoky flavors to permeate the kielbasa.
Pro Tip: If the sausage's internal temperature has trouble reaching 152 degrees, raise the temperature in the smoker to 170-175 degrees briefly when the cooking process is almost completed.
Once the kielbasa is cooked, remove them from the smoker, let them cool down for a while and they are ready to eat or be saved for later in a refrigerator or freezer.
Pro Tip: Cold shock the sausages by putting them into icy water to cool them down. Once cooled, let them dry by hanging them up for a few hours.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and the kielbasa you make using it. This is based on an old family recipe. Please put your thoughts about it in the comments section and share the articles far and wide if you enjoyed it. There are few better ways of showing love than by sharing food. Letting as many people as possible have access to this recipe and the opportunity to make and enjoy it will bring joy to the hearts of the ancients.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is Kielbasa Different from Sausage?
Kielbasa is a type of sausage made from ground pork and spices. While other types of Polish sausage are sold as fresh sausage, kielbasa is always available as a fully-cooked, hot-smoked product. The smoke and the heavy garlic presence give kielbasa its signature flavor.
How Long Do You Have to Smoke Kielbasa?
If you’re buying kielbasa at the store, it’s already smoked and fully cooked. If you’re making it yourself, you should smoke it for about 4 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees F. Once the sausages hit the target temperature, place them in an ice bath to rapidly bring the temperature down before hanging them in the refrigerator to dry.
Can You Eat Raw Kielbasa?
No, it is unsafe to eat raw pork. You must first smoke your kielbasa until it’s fully cooked before consuming it. Once the kielbasa is smoked, you do not need to heat it or cook it further before eating it. Many people do reheat kielbasa before eating, though, because the flavors are more pronounced when the sausage is hot.
What Can I Substitute for Kielbasa?
If you make your own kielbasa, you’ll never have to worry about a substitute! Smoked kielbasa stores extremely well in the freezer, especially when packed into airtight containers. Common substitutes for kielbasa are Portuguese linguisa, Spanish chorizo, or Cajun andouille. All of these sausages are spicier than Kielbasa, though, which has a milder flavor.
What Sides are Good With Kielbasa?
Kielbasa and sauerkraut are a common combination, whether you’re eating the sausage with a fork and knife or you’re serving it on a hot dog bun. You can serve any number of side dishes with kielbasa, including baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, or sauteed peppers and onions.