My family has always had Kielbasa around the holidays. Christmas, Easter, you name it. Kielbasa was something that we ate, my grandparents made it, and as an adult – I have searched for it everywhere! And no matter where I found it, I was always disappointed with what I found – no one made it like the Polish and Russians! So, I have a good friend Kevin that suggested “lets make our own!” I had to track down a recipe from my family, and get it translated to English… and I admit, I was intimidated. It was so easy (with the right equipment, which Kevin had!)!
On the first bite, I was transported back to my childhood. I was giddy the first time we made this, as I couldn’t believe how easy and how perfect the flavors were! I cannot tell you how happy this made me, given that it is 2020 and this year was… weird. This was a blast of comfort!
Note – this recipe is in metric. I’m putting in the conversions to imperial units, but stick to the metric!
40g (4.5 tbsp) kosher salt
5g (0.5 tbsp) cure salt
5g (0.5 tbsp) ground black pepper
1g (0.5 tsp) dried marjoram
10g (1 tbsp) brown sugar
6 garlic cloves (chopped fine)
5g (0.5 tbsp) garlic powder
1g (0.5 tsp) mustard seed
1.5kg (3.3 lbs) pork butt (Boston butt, shoulder, or some variant)
0.5kg (1.1 lbs) venison (I prefer venison, but a game meat is important! You can use boar or some other game)
0.75kg (1.7 lbs) pork fat (if you can get it, which typically you cannot, so brisket or beef fat will work just as well)
120ml (0.5 cup) ice water
Hog / pig casings
Lightly freeze the meats and fat in the freezer. You will want to keep the meats slightly frozen the entire time. Not rock hard, not refrigerator cold – but slightly frozen. You don’t want the fat to get warm or it will melt.
Soak the hog casings in room temperature warm water. Wash them gently, and use the tap to get water into the hog casing and wash them out. Take your time, they will get knotted and tangle, patiently untangle them and don’t let them tear.
Cut the meat and fat into 2.5cm (or 1 inch) chunks. The goal here is to make the grind easy, and keep the coating of the spices even over everything.
Mix the seasoning, and then mix it into the meat and fat. When done, put back into the freezer and cool back down.
Grind the meat with a very coarse grind. The goal here is to grind everything up, but you don’t want it to be fine. Believe me – coarse is the way to go! When you are done, put back into the freezer and cool back down.
Add ice water to the meat, and mix completely. Its very important to keep it all together!
Stuff the sausage into the casings. Traditional kielbasa is a long tube around 60cm in length, tied at the end into a loop. If you can’t do it, then prepare how you like, but trust me – you will want a longer sausage since you will absolutely love these!
Hang the sausages to dry in the open air in the room for 30-60 minutes.
Check each sausage for air pockets, and remove the air pockets with a hot needle or knife. Pack them tight – and pop out all the air! If you think you got all the air pockets, check again, cause there is likely more!
If you can, hand the sausage in the fridge overnight. If you have to tray it, so be it, but hanging is better.
Smoke the sausage in a cold smoker or a very low warm smoker. Ideally 82c (180f) till the sausage gets to 68c (155f). You do not want the fat to melt, but you want a solid smoke on the sausages! I admit, when I smoked, I kept the smoker at 140f for 4 hours, and then turned it up to finish it off. Should take 3-4 hours. Lower temperature for longer time for stronger smoke flavor.
Put the sausages into a ice water bath immediately after removing from the smoker to shock them and stop the cook. I was worried about this washing off all the good smoke, but trust me, this is awesome! And you will not lose any appreciable smoke.
Hand to dry (or tray) till they dry off.
Vacuum seal or cook and eat!
Cooking Kielbasa (the right way!)
This one is a bit of a personal thing, but… sauté the sausages on the stove, in a frying pan, with butter, onions, and mushrooms. The flavor imparts a lot, and the sausages will taste amazing. You can cut them into smaller chunks to make them more bite sized, but DO NOT BOIL them.
This is a slightly more advanced recipe, only because of the number of ingredients (that may be somewhat hard to find). But, if you are adventurous enough to do so, you won’t be disappointed! This Green Curry soup is a very savory and spicy soup, and has all of the flavors of a good Thai curry without the rice! If you like yours a bit spicier, add fresh jalapeno slices! I usually double the recipe because it is so good, and a bit of work!
3 lemongrass stalks
4 cloves garlic, chopped well
4 inches of fresh ginger root, skinned and chopped well
2.5 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut up into chunks
12 ounces fresh white mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. Green Curry paste (or fresh if you know the recipe)
3 tbsp. premium fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 (14 ounce) cans of coconut milk
1 onion, sliced
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Peel and slice lemongrass talks, and chop. Add lemongrass with ginger and garlic to large pot over medium heat. Cook for 60 seconds in light oil.
Stir in chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain out lemongrass, garlic, and ginger and throw away. Set broth aside.
Debone and remove the skin from the chicken thighs, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Cook in pan with light oil till cooked thru (~5-10 minutes).
Near the end of browning chicken, add mushrooms and cook for remaining 5 minutes.
Add back to broth from earlier, and put back on heat.
Stir in Green Curry, fish sauce, lime juice, coconut milk, and return to simmer for 20 minutes.
Ok – most families have that one recipe that is “theirs”. Well, this Sausage and Peppers recipe is my father’s. He made this up a number of years ago, and it is really a fantastic recipe. Its hot, savory, spicy, and a bit of Italian meets Russian! It is a simple crock pot recipe that feeds the masses!
3 lbs Italian Sausage (we prefer spicy)
1 large Vadalia or Yellow onion, diced
2 cans of diced tomatoes, or 32 oz of fresh diced tomatoes
1 whole bulb garlic (or 6 cloves, depending on size – but go heavy handed here), minced
Salt, to taste
4 tbsp. basil
2 tbsp. oregano
1 bottle of pickled pepperoncini peppers, including the sauce (remove the stems, and slice them up)
Fry the Italian sausage in a frying pan. Remove the sausage from the grease, but leave the grease for the next step in the frying pan. Add the cooked sausage to the crock pot.
Fry the diced onions until caramelized but not burnt. Add the minced garlic near the last 2 minutes. Add to the crock pot when complete.
Add all other ingredients to the crock pot.
Cook for 4-5 hours on slow. Do not let burn!
Serve over rice (brown or white) or on a hard Turano style roll!
Pierogi’s… an amazing appetizer or main meal, that sadly many in my family just could not enjoy. So, I did what any engineer would do – I solved the problem. I have taken the recipe that my grandmother would make, and have modified it to use ingredients that my family can eat, so that they can enjoy the tasty treats. It is the best approximation to the old-world recipe that I have experienced – and I hope you agree!
Pierogi’s… the memories from my grandmother’s house as she rolled these out all weekend long! Simple dough filled pastries that can be boiled, deep fried, or sautéed in butter… man they are awesome. I even would steal them as she was making them and eat them after they were boiled (probably not the healthiest thing in the world, but they tasted good after they were prepared)!
Ingredients (makes 24)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp rapid-rise dried yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. water
Lots of butter (for sautéing later), with onions and mushrooms!
1 1/4 lb potatoes
3-4 tbsp. oil (vegetable)
1 onion chopped fine
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
Salt and black pepper to taste
Warm milk, water, and melted butter to ~110 (for the yeast).
Add in whisked whole egg with salt and sugar.
Mix in the yeast with flour and stir, careful not to clump.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes to mix thoroughly.
Cover and place in a warm place, and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Peel and cut potatoes, and boil in a pan with salted cold water.
Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the onions until caramelized, but not burnt!
Once the potatoes are done, drain, and allow steam to evaporate.
Add potatoes and onions into a bowl, and mix and mash.
Add the cheddar cheese and sour cream, salt and black pepper, and mix to taste.
Set aside as the filling for the dough.
Make the Pierogi
On a floured surface, knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.
Cut the dough into 24 equal sized balls. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Flatten each ball into a round circle approximately 4 inches in diameter.
Spread potato filling into the center.
Fold the dough together into a half moon, and seal the edges. Press with the end of a fork if necessary.
Delicately, add pierogi to boiling water, and boil for 2 minutes each. Remove and allow to cool and dry.
At this point, you can freeze (once cooled) and separate with wax or parchment paper.
To cook, add to a pan with onions, mushrooms, and generous butter. They should be sautéed till golden brown, but not burnt, turning frequently.
Borscht – my all-time favorite soup. Hearty, soothing, and just down right awesome. And, if you have lots of root vegetables, a good fridge clearing event! Kids love it because of its color and flavor. Parents love it because it is a natural remedy for curing common colds and aches. And during Christmas – it is just perfectly festive! I recommend doubling the recipe since it takes so long, and this portion will go fast!
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
5-6 beets (approximately 1 1/4 lb)
3 carrots (shredded – 1 cup)
1 cabbage wedge (shredded – 1 cup)
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
Fresh chopped dill
4-6 lemon wedges for serving
Soup Stock Ingredients
2 1/4 lb beef + bone (any will do, go as fatty or as lean as your tastes prefer)
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
2-3 fresh parsley stalks
1 tsp salt
Soup Stock Recipe
Place beef (and bone) into a large pot. Add water and bring to boil.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Skim off any fat / oil / residue that boils off.
Add cleaned and stripped carrot, parsnip, celeriac, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley and salt to the pot.
Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Remove vegetables and spices from the pot and discard.
Remove meat (and bone) from the pot. Cut the meat into small chunks. Set aside for later.
Add cleaned and stripped beets and carrots to the pot.
Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer for 40 minutes.
Remove the beets and carrots from the pan and cool.
Add sliced / shredded cabbage and sliced onions, plus diced potatoes, to the pot.
Bring back to boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.
Grate (coarse) the beets and carrots, and add to the pot.
Add tomato paste, sugar and salt to the pot.
Add the meat from earlier to the pot.
Return to simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve in bowls, topped with sour cream and fresh dill, with a side lemon wedge.
John Madden always talked about his favorite Thanksgiving Day meal – the Turducken. This Frankenstein bird is amazing, full of flavor and juice! But, the construction of one is a massive process, and not for one that is easily accomplished if you are not good at preparing poultry.
The overall recipe will take well over 9 hours to cook at 225 degrees F, so you will have a multi-day preparation. You can’t just get up on Thanksgiving day morning and start this bad bird! You need to make cornbread, and turn it into cornbread stuffing! And you need to make sausage stuffing! Never mind the whole process of the Turducken!!
15 to 20 lb whole turkey. If frozen, you will need to thaw it a few days early
4 to 5 lb whole duck
4 to 5 lb whole chicken
Cotton string or butcher’s twine
Ingredients for Dry Rub:
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp basil
2 tbsp oregano
Ingredients for Sausage Stuffing:
1 stick of butter
2 large Vidalia or yellow onions to make 3 cups
8 stalks of celery to make 1 ½ cups
2 lbs spicy Italian sausage
3 tbsp paprika
1 whole bunch garlic
3 cups of turkey or chicken stock
3 cups of toasted bread crumbs (Italian) (more may be needed if mixture is too wet)
T-2 days till Thanksgiving Dinner: Prepare the Cornbread (See my Cornbread recipe for a simple but good one! It takes about an hour). Also – brine your turkey!!
T-1 days till Thanksgiving Dinner: Prepare the Cornbread stuffing (30 minutes), the Dry Rub, the Sausage Stuffing (1 hour), Prepare the Birds (3 hours), and Assemble the Turducken (1 hour)
T-10 hours till Thanksgiving Dinner: Cook the Turducken (9 to 10 hours, we hope!)
Prepare the Cornbread Stuffing (30 minutes):
Assuming you cooked your cornbread the day before, it should be nice and cool and dry at this point.
Crumble the cornbread – ½ inch chunks should be good
Sauté celery and onion in butter until soft and slightly caramelized
In a large bowl, combine celery, onions, 3 cups of crumbled cornbread, eggs (beaten), turkey or chicken stock, sage, salt and pepper to taste. Mix
Check the consistency. If it is too wet, add more cornbread crumble. If it is too dry, add more butter and turkey or chicken stock.
Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Dry Rub:
Assemble the spices. Mix.
Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Sausage Stuffing (1 hour):
Melt the butter in a large skillet
Add 3 cups of onions and 1 ½ cups of celery (chopped reasonably small, but not minced)
Sauté the onion and celery mix until the onions are completely caramelized (but not burnt)
Add the 2 lbs of sausage and cook till browned, stirring often
Add paprika and minced garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring often
Add 3 cups of chicken or turkey stock and bring up to a simmer
Cook until water evaporates and the oil rises to the top (10 to 15 minutes)
Stir in 2 to 3 cups of toasted bread crumbs and mix well
Add more bread crumbs if it is still too moist
Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Birds (1 hour per bird, 3 hours total):
Do not crack open any beer during this step – you need your witts about you and need to watch the knife!
Start with the Turkey
Rinse the Turkey. Remove any gizzards, necks, bones, giblets, etc. Set aside for later for gravy.
Put the turkey breast side down on a clean flat surface
Cut thru the skin along the spine.
With the tip of a sharp knife, starting from the neck, separate the meat from the rib cage on one side.
At the neck end, cut the meat away to show the shoulder blade, and cut meat away from and around the bone. When you can, cut the bone at the joint to remove the shoulder blade.
Keep the wing but keep any meat from the body attached – you are just trying to remove the bone and cartilage from the rib cage.
Separate the meat from the frame, down toward the thighbone.
Repeat the whole procedure on the other side of the bird
TAKE YOUR TIME – the goal here is to remove the bones and cartilage from the center cage, but leave a “skin and meat body” left that resembles a turkey
Any carcass and bones that you remove save for gravy!
You should end up with a very flat, boneless, piece of turkey with skin intact in one large piece, including legs and wings
Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the fridge so it does not spoil or dry out while you move on to the duck.
Repeat the entire process, line for line, for the duck with the following modifications:
Cut away the wings and legs. Leave the meat attached but remove any bones. You don’t need to be as clean with this bird.
The goal with these next two birds is to remove the chest and spine bones, and leave the wing and leg meat without bone. We want a “meat cake”.
Make sure you trim excess skin and fat from the birds where it is appropriate. Ducks are very fatty and will get greasy when it cooks. If you save the skin and fat that was excess, it will make a great gravy along with the bones.
Repeat the entire process for the chicken
Proceed to have a few beers – you have earned them!
Assemble the Turducken (1 hour):
Open a beer. Take a sip. Now comes the fun part.
Spread the turkey, skin down, on a flat surface. Expose as much meat as possible
Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the turkey
Spread sausage stuffing over the turkey, approximately ½ to ¾ inch thick
Drink some more beer. You should be proud of how this first layer looks.
Place the duck, skin down, on top of the stuffing. Keep the “neck up” on both birds so it lines up
Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the duck
Spread cornbread stuffing over the duck, approximately ½ inch thick
Drink some even more beer. Madden is smiling somewhere!
Place the chicken, skin down, on top of the stuffing. Keep the “neck up” on all three birds so it lines up
Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the chicken
Spread the remaining sausage and cornbread stuffing’s on the chicken
Talk a buddy into checking out what you did. Have a few sips of beer and toast to the feast!
With your partner, and carefully lift each side of the layered birds, folding together, like you are going to stitch up the Frankenstein, uh, I mean Turducken, back together. Cause that is the next step!
While your partner holds the bird together, sew the opening down the back of the turkey together with the cotton or butchers twine. It doesn’t matter too much if it is perfect, but work as best as you can. If there are major gaps, use a cheese cloth (or other kitchen cloth for cooking) to cover the spots for when we “flip the bird” (coming soon).
The Turducken has no skeleton, so you must tie the lets together, and truss up the bird (use cotton or butchers twine to pull the legs and wings to the sides of the body, holding them in place, so that they do not split apart while cooking).
Tie 4 or 5 pieces of cotton or butchers twine around the bird width-wise, to act as a bit of a skeleton
GENTLY, turn the bird over and place in the roasting pan so it is positioned breast side up and looks somewhat “normal”.
Tie the legs together just above the tips as a last step.
Finish off your six pack, if you haven’t already. You are well on your way to Turducken Heaven!
Cook the Turducken (9 to 10 hours, we hope!):
Heat oven to 225 degrees F
You need to have a good oven with good temperature control. This is key! Use additional baking temperature gauges inside the oven if you have to.
Add a meat thermometer inside the bird (with remote wire) to monitor the internal temperature
Place the bird in the oven and bake until a meat thermometer in the bird reads 165 degrees (fingers crossed about 12-14 hours)
RELY ON THE TEMPERATURE NOT THE TIME!
You don’t have to baste the bird, but you do need to pull out the drippings. There will be a lot! Save the drippings for gravy!
To serve, cut the bird right down the middle (width-wise). Slice it like a cake.
Russian salad is a traditional new year dish for Russians, and is also something that is served at many family events and name-days. There are many variations on the ingredients based on what the family’s have available to them, but the base is usually the same. Its a delicious salad, served cold. If you love macaroni or potatoes salad, you will love this dish!
A note on the vegetables: don’t over cook them! And don’t under cook them! You want them firm and crisp, but still completely cooked. If they get mushy, you over did it. If they are raw, no one will enjoy it! So – take your time!
1lb of small cubed ham (~1 cm)
16 oz of sweet peas (1 can, but fresh is best!)
3 medium size potatoes
4-5 medium size carrots
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of fresh dill
5-6 medium size cucumbers (pickled with salt not with vinegar! see Russian
Salted Cucumber recipes)
Ground black pepper
Salt by taste
Mayonnaise to taste – but be generous
1 teaspoon of spicy Dijon (or English) mustard
Skin the potatoes
Boil carrots and potatoes to cook.
Cool carrots and potatoes to room temperature BEFORE you continue.
Cool the eggs to room temperature.
Dice everything into cubes approximately 1 cm in width
Place the diced carrots and potatoes into a big bowl.
Add the peas (note: if using fresh, boil and cook first, and drain. If using canned, drain).
Add the eggs to the bowl (be gentle while mixing)
Add the cubed ham
Dice the pickled cucumbers. Make sure that you only use cucumbers pickled with salt and not vinegar!!
Chop the green onions and dill , and add to the bowl.
Begin adding the mayonnaise and mix everything thoroughly. Add the mayonnaise to taste. You want it wet and bound nicely, but not taste like mayonnaise soup! If you want a bit more zest (my preference), use Miracle Whip!
Add ground black pepper and salt to taste till you are happy with the flavor.